Thomas W. Cipolla tragically lost his life on Monday, October 1st, 2018 after the tractor trailer driving in front of him hit the median guardrail and overturned, leaving Cipolla with no time to react and causing a fiery crash which ultimately claimed his life.
Cipolla, a 52-year-old man from Beacon, New York, was driving eastbound in the left lane on I-84 at about 3:45 a.m. when the accident occurred. The tractor trailer, which was being driven by Sergio Khundiashvili of Brooklyn, struck the median guardrail for unknown reasons, causing the truck to jump the guardrail and overturn, landing on the driver’s side. Cipolla’s Toyota Camry then collided with the overturned truck, creating a fire which engulfed both vehicles.
Cipolla was able to be extricated from the fiery wreckage by Khundiashvili and a good Samaritan who witnessed the crash. Emergency services then took Cipolla to Putnam Hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead. Khundiashvili and the passenger he had with him were taken to Danbury Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by this horrific truck crash.
The drivers of tractor trailers have added responsibility for driving safely due to the sheer size and mass of their vehicles: when carrying a loaded trailer, they can weigh anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 pounds and stretch up to 80 feet long, according to a study done by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This will naturally dwarf most other vehicles on the road and pose a significant hazard in the event that the driver loses control of the truck.
Tractor-trailer crashes, and motor vehicle accidents in general, are generally complex events with more than just one cause. A recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, showed that 94% of motor vehicle accidents are caused by some sort of driver error. A separate study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) identified the leading causes of crashes involving tractor trailers in particular:
- Physical Driver Factors (12%), such as falling asleep or having a seizure or heart attack
- Driver Recognition Factors (29%), such as daydreaming or being distracted by their cell phone
- Driver Decision Factors (38%), such as driving too fast, following too closely or turning too fast
- Driver Performance Factors (6%), such as panic or poor steering skills
- Vehicle Related Factors (10%), such as faulty brakes, tire failure, or shifting cargo
It is not yet clear what caused Mr. Khundiashvili to strike the guardrail. To determine the facts surrounding this case, authorities may take measurements at the scene, gather any available eyewitness testimony, and analyze the history of the drivers and trucking company involved in this tragic crash in order to determine who is at fault.
Investigators may also look to see if the Event Data Recorder (EDR), which is present in some form on most tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles, was preserved. Similar to the “black box” which records crucial flight information in the event of an airplane malfunction or crash, an EDR is a piece of electronic equipment which is usually activated by a collision or rapid deceleration as a means of determining why the crash occurred. Upon activation, an EDR records details such as wheel speed, throttle and brake application, engine speed and steering wheel position in order to capture the technical conditions that led to the crash. If this piece of technology is still intact, it may be useful for investigators attempting to reconstruct how this tragic accident occurred.
If you or a loved one have been impacted by a truck accident, you deserve justice for the damages and emotional trauma that you’ve suffered. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation for car accident victims and for family members who’ve lost a loved one in a fatal car accident. We’ve also recovered top results for clients in truck accident lawsuits, such as this $14 million verdict for a motorcyclist who was struck by a semi-truck.