Fatal accident on I-24 takes unexpected turn

A transfer-truck driver goes through a cable barrier, across the median and collides head-on with another truck driver. (Image: WTVC)

A transfer-truck driver goes through a cable barrier, across the median and collides head-on with another truck driver.

Both were killed on impact.

Friday afternoon, the crash investigation took an unexpected twist.

If you look at the name on the trailer of the truck, it has the word Knight. That stands for Knight Transportation.

We called that company. Right away, representatives from the company realized something about the crash wasn't right.

"I saw the picture of our trailer there connected to a truck that we recognized right away wasn't ours," said Brett Sant, Knight Transportation.

Sant says they don't know who the driver was working for at the time of the accident.

"We're trying to determine how or why this driver ended up with our trailer hauling a load for some unknown party," he said.

Sant tells us the trailer had been missing for a week, and the motor carrier had performed work for them in the past.

But, not on Friday.

"The motor carrier who was transporting our trailer was doing so without our knowledge," Sant said.

As we dug deeper into the story, we also noticed another thing.

When the tractor trailer drove through here, it cut through this cable median.

A TDOT spokesperson tell us the state uses Level 4 cable, which is recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.

They installed these type of barrers in 16 Tennessee counties in 2010 and called them an economic replacement for traditional guard rails intended to prevent crashes.

According to TDOT, these cables can only withstand a more than 17,000 pound truck going up to 50 miles per hour.

Knight representatives feel for those involved in this deadly crash, but still want to know why their trailer was involved.

"We're just trying to determine who were they working for, where did they get our trailer, and why and how were they using our trailer at the time of this accident - because they were not performing any work for Knight transportation," Sant said.

Tennessee has 300 miles of median cable barriers across the state.

The NTSB tells us investigators are monitoring this accident and gathering information about it.

As of right now, they do not have an open investigation.

We also heard from the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency on their studies of guardrail performance.

Doug Hecox says, "The FHWA has conducted numerous studies on guardrail performance, but cable median barriers have not been specifically tested for tractor-trailer type vehicles. Roadside safety hardware, such as guardrails and cable median barriers, are designed to reduce crash severity for most all other smaller vehicle types. Hardware, such as barriers, sign supports and crash cushions are commonly used to reduce the severity of crashes on the roadside. For example, cable median barriers used in median applications on interstate highways are designed to protect oncoming traffic from a vehicle that may be out of control or is unable to stop before reaching oncoming traffic lanes. Safety Shape concrete barriers (i.e., ‘Jersey’ barriers) are more rigid barrier designed to keep vehicles from leaving the roadway or the bridge. or, in the case of highway work zones, specific lanes of the work zone. Crash testing is used to evaluate the crashworthiness of these devices under laboratory conditions. Through the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Manual of Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH), state Departments of Transportation determine crashworthiness of barriers that exist within the state DOT standard details. For in-service performance of devices, the FHWA is currently studying methods on how to inventory the in-field performance of roadside safety hardware. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is often used to help determine how often guardrails or cable median barriers are involved in a roadway fatality."

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