According to recent news reports from Ridgefield New Jersey a massive five-car chain reaction accident on the New Jersey Turnpike has claimed the lives of Samssondar Khamrhaj and Francisco Martinez and has injured five others. The chain of events began when a set of rear tandem wheels from a 2000 Peterbilt semi-truck driven by Hasan Toma came off of the truck near mile marker 116.3 on Friday Dec. 24 around 6:45 a.m. One of the tires eventually landed in the right lane of the highway where it was struck by James Helmick Jr. 25 of Lodi who was driving a 2000 Toyota Corolla. Helmick experienced minor injuries and parked his car on the right shoulder.
The tire rolled into the center lane where it was struck by Garbharan Amrit 64 of Woodside NY who was driving a 2001 Ford Windstar. His van became disabled in the center lane as it became stuck on the tire. Amrit and his passenger Samssondar Khamraj 63 of Manhattan exited the van to view the damage. Amrit went back into the van to make a phone call. Khamraj was standing in front of the van when it was rear-ended by Francisco Martinez 40 of North Bergen who was driving a 1999 Chevrolet Astro van. The impact caused the van to hit Khamraj who sustained a fatal head injury.
Amrit and Martinez exited their respective vehicles to check on Khamraj. William Talbot 73 of Fort Lee had stopped to also offer assistance parking his 2000 Saturn SL1 in front of the two disabled cars. Peter Birdsall 53 of Ridgefield Park was driving a 1999 Chevrolet Cobalt and sideswiped the left side of the Astro that had been driven by Martinez while also striking Martinez who had been standing next to the van. Martinez also sustained a fatal head wound. Martinez and Khamraj were both pronounced dead at 7:19 a.m.
The Cobalt also hit the rear of the Windstar and the van struck Amrit and Talbot causing injury to both men. The Cobalt then became disabled in the left lane and was struck by Daniel Healy 53 of Holtsville who was driving a 2008 Honda Civic. Amrit Talbot Birdsall Helmick and a passenger in Helmicks car were all transported to Hackensack University Medical Center with moderate injuries. The driver of the semi-truck was not injured. An investigation is being conducted by the State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection unit in order to determine whey the tires came off.
What an awful tragic mess. One would like to believe that such an unfortunate chain of events could have been prevented at any point along the timeline of events. However the initial news report would seem to indicate that the inciting incident was the loss of a few tires from a semi-truck. When something of that nature occurs a driver the drivers employer a manufacturer or an installer may all bear certain portions of liability depending on the circumstances leading up to the accident. If a trucking company failed to maintain their fleet or if an installer failed to properly mount those tires they could be held partially liable for the resulting accident that claimed two lives and injured five people. Since there are likely many factors involved in an accident of this magnitude an independent investigation may be conducted in order to determine the liable party or parties so that they can be held accountable for their negligent behavior.