PAIGE, Texas—A man is expected to be charged with criminally negligent homicide after a crash on U.S. 290 in Bastrop County left a woman dead when a rock flew off of a truck and through her windshield.
The rock flew from a Raines Brick, Tile and Flooring carrier driven by Jeffrey Wayne Blackmon, according to the accident report made by Bastrop Highway Patrol Trooper Scott A. Hewitt.
The crash involved two 18-wheelers and two cars on Sept. 16. Police identified the dead woman as 70-year-old Austin resident Caroline McChyrstal. Efforts to reach her family for comment were unsuccessful.
According to the accident report, Blackmon swerved to miss another semi-truck that was waiting to turn left into a construction site. Hewitt said this “faulty evasive action” caused large construction stones to spill onto the roadway. One of these stones flew through McChrystal’s windshield.
A warrant is out for Blackmon’s arrest, Texas Department of Public Safety Officer Sharon Forester said.
“The state is filing charges, but he has not been arrested yet,” Forester said.
A spokesperson from Raines Brick, Tile, and Flooring said that they “abide totally by the rules and regulations” of the Texas Department of Transportation for semi-trucks and carriers. They declined further comment.
TxDOT Media Relations Officer Kelli Reyna said that highway safety was a “two way street” when it comes to sharing the road with large trucks and commercial vehicles.
“There are people driving those vehicles too, and people make mistakes,” Reyna said. “If you do see a large truck carrying heavy load, do your part as a motorist. Don’t follow too closely, and give them space.”
Reyna said she recommends that people know the non-emergency police number to call if they see items flying out of a vehicle. The number is 1-800-525-5555 and is printed on the back of all Texas driver’s licenses.
“It is state law for carriers to secure their cargo properly,” Reyna said, as well as being certified by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Raines Brick, Tile and Flooring is registered as a certified carrier with the DMV.
In addition to state laws, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has specific securement rules that outline how to properly position and tie down cargo to prevent articles from becoming loose.
For instance, the minimum working load limit of the securement system holding cargo in place must be least one-half the weight of the cargo. There are also minimum number of tiedowns depending on the length of the vehicle and the weight of the cargo.
Accidents do happen, despite certification or properly secured loads, said Reyna.
Since 2013, there have been 19 crashes involving semi-trucks, tractors, or commercial carriers on this stretch of U.S. 290 that runs through Bastrop County.
Nationally, 333,000 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes in 2012. Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks increased by 4 percent from 2011.
Reyna said that the chances of a large truck being able to stop as fast as a smaller vehicle were slim, increasing the possibility of a crash. She said in order to eliminate the chance of an accident, it is up to the drivers to pay attention.
“TxDOT can do all we can to make the highways safe, but at the end of the day, it is up to the drivers on the road to keep it safe,” said Reyna. “Even if you’re not drunk or you’re not distracted, the other person might be.”