Woman Killed after 14-Ton Tractor Trailer with Inadequate Brakes Crashes into Ithaca Restaurant

Amanda Bush, 27, a bartender at Simeon’s, a well-known bistro in Ithaca, New York, was killed in June 2014 after a large tractor trailer hauling passenger cars crashed into the restaurant. Police issued the truck’s driver, 37-year-old Viacheslav Grychanyi, two traffic violations: one for having inadequate brakes, and one violation for driving an over-lengthed vehicle. Witnesses of the accident stated that the truck was going 40 to 50 mph when it slammed into the side of the building.

Police investigators stated that the truck was headed toward a pedestrian mall. In an apparent attempt to avoid hitting construction workers in the pedestrian area, the driver tried turning the truck onto a side road. However, the truck skimmed across a concrete barrier and then crashed into the restaurant located in an historic four-story building. The tractor trailer was hauling seven passenger cars at the time of the accident and is owned by Auto Star Transport, a company located in Washington.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one in 10 highway fatalities involve large trucks. Because trucks need more time and space to stop, inadequate brakes are often a common cause of accidents involving trucks. In some cases, a truck’s brakes were not adequately inspected or maintained. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), proposed a regulation that would require large trucks to have electronic stability control (ESC). ESC on large tractor trailers would serve two purposes: first, by automatically regulating braking and engine power, the technology could prevent trucks from rolling over. Second, ESC would help the driver maintain control of the truck and prevent it from skidding in the wrong direction. The NHTSA estimates that 40 to 56 percent of truck roll-overs could be prevented by ESC. In addition, the agency estimated that 14 percent of truck accidents caused by loss-of-control could be prevented by the braking technology. Overall, the NHTSA determined that ESC would prevent 2,329 truck crashes, 858 injuries, and 60 fatalities every year.

Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS, applauded NHTSA’s recommendations to require large trucks to have ESC. She stated, “We commend the agency for moving ahead with an ESC mandate for new truck tractors and large buses independent of its ongoing research of single unit trucks. We encourage the NHTSA to expedite this research and also to explore the feasibility of a retrofitting requirement so a bigger proportion of the fleet benefits from ESC.”

It is currently unclear if the truck involved in the fatal Ithaca accident was equipped with ESC. The accident is currently under investigation by officials from the Ithaca Police Department.

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