OKLAHOMA CITY – A tire and rim has caused a string of wrecks on I-40, killing one driver and injuring two others. It happened just before 5 a.m. Monday between Meridian and MacArthur on I-40.
"If it's a duel-wheel tire, which we believe that it likely is, then the outer wheel tire could come loose and travel wildly down the interstate,” said Captain Ronnie Hampton with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol traffic homicide unit.
OHP troopers believe the tire and rim came from a commercial vehicle, possibly a semi. They believe, once it came loose, it went airborne and hit a pickup that was traveling eastbound on I-40 near Meridian.
"We had a rollover collision that was eastbound on I-40 at MacArthur. Then, we had a vehicle that sustained heavy front-end damage that was westbound on I-40 on top of MacArthur,” Hampton said, describing the two more wrecks that were caused by the tire.
It all ended under the bridge at MacArthur, where the tire traveled down an embankment and then hit a semi that was traveling northbound on MacArthur.
Authorities think it’s possible the driver, especially if they were driving a semi, may not know they lost the tire and the rim.
"It's a very, very difficult job. You have to drive defensively at all times,” Michael Kahn told News 4.
Kahn has been driving a semi for 14 years. He told News 4 he was shocked when he heard what caused the string of wrecks, which is why he pulled over and waited for the traffic to clear.
"If you said earlier the tire and rim traveled a mile, which is unheard of, that means there had to be sufficient enough air in the tire to make it roll like that,” he said.
Kahn thinks the lug nuts may have been loose.
Whatever the cause, though, the unfortunate chain of events ended one driver’s life in a matter of seconds and injured two other drivers.
"Due to the injuries, it looks like the death was probably instantaneous,” Hampton said.
OHP is still searching for the driver of the vehicle that lost the tire and rim.
Call OHP if you have information that can help.