KHQ SPECIAL REPORT: Coming Unhitched - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

KHQ SPECIAL REPORT: Coming Unhitched

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Sgt. Devyn Derrick oversees the Commercial Vehicle Division with the Washington State Patrol and he said Troopers see trailer-related issues out on the roads of Spokane almost every single day. Sgt. Devyn Derrick oversees the Commercial Vehicle Division with the Washington State Patrol and he said Troopers see trailer-related issues out on the roads of Spokane almost every single day.
SPOKANE, Wash. - "I felt a tug, looked in rearview mirror, saw my trailer was wiggling, then I looked over my left and the trailer had passed me," remembers Steve Armstrong, of the day when his trailer came unhitched from his truck.

It was January 2012, and Armstrong was traveling south on Sullivan, coming back from a trip to the dump. He drove over a small break in the concrete, where the road meets the bridge, and that is all it took to loosen his trailer hitch enough for it to become detached.

"My first reaction was horror," explained Armstrong. "Because it's a heavy piece of equipment going through the air in the wrong direction."

Elke Griffith, along with her 2 daughters and grandson, were traveling on the opposite side of the road, headed home from a day at the mall.

"I saw that trailer go up in the air," she said. "And I thought, 'this is it, we're all going to die.'"

But, the 1000-pound, flying steel trailer narrowly missed hitting all 4 passengers. It did, however, total Elke's mini-van.

"Even in the emergency room, the doctor said, you guys should not have survived that," Elke remembers. "He said the way that hit, should have broke that windshield and decapitated you."

The reason for the crash? A single piece of the puzzle was not in place. A $2 pin was not inserted correctly, which caused this near massive tragedy.

In Spokane County alone, there are over 50,000 registered personal trailers. Huber Trailers, and family owned and operated trailer store in Spokane Valley sells roughly 3-5 trailers every day during busy season, as the weather starts to get nicer.

They teach their customers how to correctly attach the trailers they purchase, and stress that little mistakes can cause big problems out on the roads.

With each customer, they explain how to properly insert the pin, set up the brakes and lights, make sure they have the right size ball in the cupler, and how to attach the crossed safety chains.

"If you lose a trailer, it could get costly," explained Cody Huber, of Huber Trailers. "It could cost you your life, it could cost you anything."

Sgt. Devyn Derrick oversees the Commercial Vehicle Division with the Washington State Patrol and he said Troopers see trailer-related issues out on the roads of Spokane almost every single day.

"Things happen quickly on the freeway," he explained. "If a trailer comes off it could be completely disastrous."

He also said that Troopers see a lot of debris coming off of trailers because many people use them to carry everything from lumber, furniture, and yard waste, to jet skis and boats.

It's important to attach everything in or on the trailer with thick straps to keep it from falling off and hitting your car or another car.

"I've seen an entire couch, at night, on the freeway...it's heavy, it's like hitting a large animal."

Steve Armstrong was lucky his unhitched trailer did not kill Elke and her family.

His advice to other people driving trailers? Check and re-check your trailer and the things in it.

"You can't check too many times," echoed Elke. "Because that one time you don't, that's all it takes."

Here are some links to look at to make sure you are following all the rules of the road when it comes to your trailer:

http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/docs/cvd/170_129.pdf

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/

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