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SPECIAL REPORT: Trailer Dangers

COLUMBUS (Adam Aaro) -- As we hit the road this holiday season a warning to make sure you stay vigilant if you're towing a trailer.

Five years ago Walt Gunter of Ashtabula lost his brother Paul when a trailer detached from a truck. Paul was riding his motorcycle in Lake County with a friend and was just about to pass the truck. Then disaster struck.

"The trailer disconnected, went left of center and hit him head on," said Gunter. "It pretty much killed him instantly."

Police reports show the trailer was on the road for about 10 miles before it broke loose. The driver had taken it from a construction site assuming the safety chains and pin were secured by another employee. But that was not the case.

"It is fairly rare," said Ron Thyer, a retired accident re-constructionist for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office told us. "But they do happen. And when they do they can be very traumatic."

Ohio does not keep records of trailer detachment accidents.

We wanted to see how easy it was for a trailer to detach if you don't follow the safety instructions. Taking an SUV and a trailer, we headed to the Ohio Peace Officer's Training Academy in London. On the first run the pin and chains are secure and the trailer stays put. But on the second pass we pull the safety pin and after just a short distance, the trailer breaks free of the ball hitch but the safety chains prevent it from getting away from the SUV. On the third pass we try to emulate what happend in Paul Gunter's case by not using the safety pin or attaching the chains. After just a few moments the trailer completely breaks free and is out of control

Walt Gunter says the memory of what happened to his brother still haunts him.

"I can't go out on a ride during any day without thinking about him at least once when I see a trailer," Gunter said. "I keep him in my memory and a picture of him on my bike when I ride so he's kind of with me in spirit when I go."

Gunter now does a memorial ride for his brother, tracing the path of their only ride together. Paul only owned his motorcycle about a month before he was killed. ANd Gunter hopes he brings awareness to people to stay focused and always double-check your trailer before you hit the road.

For more information about Ohio law -- http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4513.32

 
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