Investigation continues in Texas tire explosion death

| 2/1/2005

The family of a Houston man who was killed by flying debris when tires on a semi exploded could have to file civil action against the driver of the truck because police say criminal charges may not be filed.

Juan Tenorio, 57, was on the front porch of his home at 8 a.m. Jan. 18 when an 18-wheeler loaded with furniture got stuck in a ditch in his residential neighborhood just outside downtown Houston. The driver of the Gainey Transportation Services rig – identified by the Houston Chronicle as 26-year-old Marcus Duncan of Dallas – told Houston police he was gunning the engine, trying to get the truck back on the road surface, when four tires on the tractor exploded.

Pieces of the tires sprayed out, some flying several blocks. One smashed through the window of a condo two blocks away and damaged a wall. Another piece ripped metal from a nearby utility pole, knocking the pole into a tree. At least one piece hit Tenorio. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but he died later.

Sgt. Rose Terry of the Houston Police Department said this week that the investigation is ongoing.

However, the officer from the department’s Truck Enforcement Unit who was at the scene of the wreck is somewhat doubtful that criminal charges will be filed – even though the tractor was not on a truck route and a Level 1 inspection at the scene revealed several violations, including an unauthorized passenger who police believe to be a prostitute.

“I’m still upset about the situation,” Sgt. C.J. Klausner told Land Line. “This gives a black eye to a very honorable profession that has a lot of honorable men and women working in it … who knows what kind of distraction was going on in that cab.”

Klausner said that there was no reason for the truck to be in the residential neighborhood, which has narrow blacktop streets without curbs or gutters. Klausner also said that based on his inspection, the truck should have never left Dallas and headed to Houston with its load of furniture. It had multiple violations that should have kept it off the road.

Despite those facts, Klausner said he doesn’t know if investigators will be able to provide enough evidence to file any criminal charges in the case.

“It will be tough on the criminal side,” he said. “But on the civil side – they should just open up their check book.”

That checkbook would belong to Gainey Transportation Services, which is based in Michigan.

Gainey’s vice president for safety and driver personnel, Tim Kelly, said he was aware of the incident, but he declined to comment on it. He would not confirm for Land Line that Duncan was driving the Gainey truck that was involved in the incident.

“I’m not going to comment on that situation at all,” Kelly said Feb. 1.

According to reports from the scene, the Gainey driver had just graduated from driving school six months ago. Klausen said the driver told him at the scene that he had become lost on the way to the store he was supposed to deliver the furniture to. He said he stopped for directions, which led him to the victim’s neighborhood of small, one-story wood-frame houses.

The driver reportedly arrived in Houston at about 3:30 a.m. His activities between his arrival in the city and the tire explosion were not immediately known.

by Coral Beach