Last August, National Grid was conducting a test drive with a six-wheel dump truck towing a backhoe on a flatbed trailer when the truck jackknifed causing the 17,000 pound backhoe to fall off the trailer and hit a van. After careening down a 20-foot embankment, the backhoe landed on top of the minivan. The driver of the van suffered a broken back and her two children were seriously injured; her mother was crushed to death. The driver of the truck was not injured. National Grid took the trucks out of service the day after the accident. The investigation is still ongoing.
Investigators are examining the dump truck for possible mechanical problems and if the backhoe-loader was properly secured to its trailer. Police are also looking into why the driver lost control and if he was at fault.
After the accident, National Grid admitted it was test-driving the truck because of safety concerns expressed by employees. Early last year, National Grid replaced its fleet of heavy, 10-wheeled service trucks with smaller, 6-wheeled trucks to tow heavy equipment. Soon thereafter, drivers began complaining that the new trucks were difficult to stop and control when traveling down hills, but the company directed the driver to perform the test drive on I-495 that busy Friday afternoon.
The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against National Grid and the driver claiming gross negligence. The suit contends that National Grid knew the combination was dangerous yet proceeded to perform the test drive. The lawsuit contends National Grid put out an internal memo warning that their new dump trucks had difficulty towing backhoes. The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages and safety reforms.
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