Tire explosion details slowly emerge

SALEM, Ohio – The cause of a tire explosion last month on a Trumbull County dairy farm is still unknown, however more details are available.
The accident killed tire mechanic Joshua Surber of Millersburg, Ohio.
‘Great velocity.’ On April 12, Surber was at the Hall family’s farm in Gustavus Township, changing tires on a John Deere 4455.
According to Laura Hall, her son, David, was helping Surber put on four new Firestone tires. Earlier that morning they had installed the two inside rear tires, and were getting an outside dual tire ready. The tire rims were not new, she said.
The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department’s incident report says Surber had trouble getting the tire bead to seat on the rim.
“It appears that he was bent over or kneeling over the tire while inflating with air,” the report says.
The tire bead then fractured on the bottom side, directly below the valve stem area.
“When the tire failed, the escaping air turned the tire and rim into a projectile, sending it at least 8 feet into the air at great velocity,” investigators wrote in their report.
Surber, 24, was killed instantly when the rim hit him near his chin, the report concluded.
The tire struck Hall, causing a concussion, and face and ankle injuries.
Lubricant, pressure. Investigators observed lubricant seeping from the beads on the two already-installed tires, but the fractured tire and rim appeared dry.
Hall, however, said in his statement the tire had been lubed and there hadn’t been any problems until the bead wasn’t seating during inflation.
The last thing Hall remembers is asking Surber how much air was in the tire.
The incident report said pressure gauges in the service compartment of Surber’s truck were set in excess of 100 pounds. While the truck was running, the regulated pressure was near 125 pounds, and after it was turned off again, the regulated pressure was between 100-110 pounds.
Laura Hall said at the time of the explosion, Surber was inflating the tire on the ground and it wasn’t at full pressure.
Fault? It’s not up to the police to determine whether the explosion was caused by human error or tire malfunction, said Sgt. Peter Pizzulo.
The department makes sure an accident isn’t caused by malice or criminal intent, but then it’s up to liability insurance companies to decide cause and origin, he said.
Millersburg Tire in Millersburg, Ohio, where Surber had worked for five years, declined to comment.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)


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