Report released on fatal BLM engine rollover

BLM Unimog fire engine 2410

BLM Unimog Engine 2410 when it was new in 2006. BLM photo.

The Bureau of Land Management has released an Accident Investigation Factual Report for the July 10, 2016 engine rollover north of Winnemucca, Nevada in which two firefighters were killed and a third was seriously injured.

Jacob O’Malley and Will Hawkins lost their lives in the single-vehicle accident on Nevada State Route 140 when a rear tire suddenly and catastrophically failed. The truck only had four tires, there were no duals on the rear. When the right-rear rim dragged along the pavement the left-front was in the air, eliminating any possibility of control by the driver. The 33,000 pound GVWR engine fishtailed and then rolled several times.

The cab was higher than the water tanks and pump package, so it took the majority of the impact as the top of the vehicle struck the roadway during the rollover. All three occupants were wearing seat belts but with the top of the cab and the A pillar being damaged or sheared off, the restraint system failed to operate as designed. Mr. Hawkins was ejected from the cab and then was hit by the rolling wreckage.

Below is an excerpt from the report:

Finding 3.1 (Material): During the rollover, the upper cab structure (made of reinforced carbon fiber) sheared away from the truck frame, exposing the vehicle’s occupants to a hazardous environment. The disintegration of the cab compromised the driver’s and right side passenger’s seatbelt systems.

Discussion 3.1: The lack of cab crashworthiness did not cause the rollover; however, it contributed to the fatal conditions which occurred during the crash. The reinforced carbon fiber cab on the Unimog was manufactured in France and was built to United Nations Code ECE r29 (commercial vehicle occupant protection), which exceeds U.S. cab crashworthiness standards. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) submitted a report to Congress in 2015 on the need for improved heavy truck crashworthiness standards; however, no action has been taken on this report as of February 2017.

There are 41 articles on Wildfire Today about the rollovers of wildland fire apparatus.

We still stand behind what we wrote in a 2015 article about the many firefighter fatalities from rollovers:

The wildland fire agencies should fund research conducted by engineers to determine how to prevent the passenger compartments in their fire engines from collapsing in accidents.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Eric.
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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Report released on fatal BLM engine rollover”

  1. Not so comforting facts, why are these UNIMOG ® U500’s not wearing safety compliance labels ?
    If people want to call them trucks, try crash testing them. See if they pass. Maybe that’s why they don’t have the labels ?
    Maybe they were not tested because they are not trucks.

  2. The tires in the recall (365’s) and the tires on the BLM Unimog (395’s) were not the same tires. Michelin provided an e-mail to the investigators stating that the tires on the BLM Unimog were not subject to a recall.

    1. Michelin were not notified of the crash or the fatalities either.
      The tires or the Unimog was not examined by the Nevada DOT.
      Michelin did nothing to make Daimler retract the specs that were NOT 70 MPH rated.
      But not to worry actually, Michelin knows now.

  3. July 6th 2017, this just in,

    Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not put this together, we are talking about homicide here. The UNIMOG® is a tractor.

    The rollovers on these tractors in North America was well documented and known, back in 2004. They were Freightliner LLC (now Daimler Trucks North America), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, please 3 all 3 pages of this letter. A best kept secret ?

  4. Why was that truck still in service with tires that had exceeded their service life? Absolutely agree that looking into making heavy trucks more crash worthy is a good idea, but theoretically it wouldn’t have mattered had the tire not failed.


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