Tire problems might have contributed to fatal wreck on I-40

Staff writerMarch 17, 2011 

— A woman who was struck and killed by a car last month after she got out of her sport utility vehicle in the center lane of Interstate 40 appeared to have been experiencing mechanical problems, according to a search warrant made public today.

Police think Amelia Hernandez-Garcia, 34, had recently purchased the used Ford Explorer Sport Trac that malfunctioned on the interstate and intend to talk to the dealer who sold it to her, according to the warrant filed this morning at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office. They are investigating what appear to be faulty tires on the 2004 Ford that may have been the reason she stopped on the highway.

Hernandez-Garcia died at the scene of a chain-reaction crash that also sent nine other drivers and passengers to the hospital. The accident occurred Feb. 23, about 9:30 p.m. in the westbound lanes of I-40 near the Gorman Street exit.

Investigators say Hernandez-Garcia was driving the Ford when she stopped in the center lane. A motorist driving a Honda minivan then stopped and offered to help her.

Hernandez-Garcia was standing at the driver's side window of the Honda when a Mini Cooper rear-ended the Honda minivan, police reported.

The impact of the collision threw Hernandez-Garcia onto the left travel lane. One approaching vehicle struck the Ford, and a second vehicle hit Hernandez-Garcia, police reported.

J.E. Rigsbee, a senior officer with the Raleigh police, stated in the court affidavit that the woman may have stopped due to a mechanical or tire problem with the vehicle.

"The tread of the right front tire had become separated from the side wall and the left front tire has substantial wear to the side wall," Rigsbee stated in the affidavit.

Police removed the front tires of the SUV on March 3 as part of their investigation, court records show.

The investigating officer noted in the affidavit that the SUV had a 30-day tag and could have been recently purchased.

The police also removed the air bag control module from the Mini Cooper that was involved in the crash, court records show.

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4533

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