BUTLER, Wis.—A truck driver was killed Dec. 10 when two 2,500-lb., off-the-road tires fell on him as he was making a delivery to a Brad Ragan Inc. location in Butler. The victim, 26-year-old Kevin Funkhouser of Lynchburg, Ohio, was employed as a driver for the Transport National trucking company and was based in Cincinnati.
The shipment of tires was being delivered for a mining company and included two large OTR tires nearly nine feet in diameter, size 27.00-49, and two smaller tires, size 26.5R25.
Store Manager Bill Ollinger said the shipment originated at W.W.F. Tires and Wheels Inc. in Fort Lupton, Colo.
According to Butler Police Chief Ernie Rosenthal, the two large tires were loaded vertically on the flatbed truck and restrained with 2- and 4-inch wide straps.
There were wooden blocks under the tires to prevent them from rolling. The two smaller tires were stacked one on top of the other on the truck bed.
A Brad Ragan employee used a forklift to remove the two smaller tires from the truck, Mr. Ollinger said. Before the employee returned, Mr. Funkhouser apparently had begun to loosen the restraining straps on the large tires and one of them fell on him at about 9:35 a.m.
Mr. Rosenthal said the victim was found on his back with the tire across his chest and abdomen and his legs in the middle. Brad Ragan workers were attempting to remove the tire when the second large tire also fell on Mr. Funkhouser.
Two Brad Ragan employees with emergency medical training—one in the U.S. Army Reserves and another with an area volunteer fire department rescue squad—attempted to revive the victim, Mr. Ollinger said.
"I thought they did a real good job," Mr. Ollinger said of the two employees, who observed that the victim had no pulse and his chest was crushed.
Mr. Funkhouser was taken to a local hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Ollinger said he has worked at the Brad Ragan location for 12 years—eight as service manager— and had never seen a standing load of tires delivered to the dealership until this one.
"They are usually stacked like pancakes," he said.
If he had seen the truck as it entered the dealership, Mr. Ollinger said he would have suggested unloading the large tires with the boom on the dealership's service truck instead of a forklift.
Still, he wondered why Mr. Funkhouser loosened the straps on the tires before the forklift returned. "Why he would undo those (straps), I don't know," Mr. Ollinger said.
The dealership has sent a message of condolence and a check for $1,000 to Mr. Funkhouser's widow and her five children. "We really feel horrible about the situation," Mr. Ollinger said.
Both Mr. Ollinger and Mr. Rosenthal speculated that the tires were loaded vertically to avoid the need for a special permit for transporting a wide load.
Tire Business attempted to contact Terry Kultgen, president of Transport National, but he refused to be interviewed.
When interviewed for an article published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mr. Kultgen said Mr. Funkhouser had been employed as a driver since July.
Mr. Kultgen also said Transport National has "a very good safety record" and had never had an accident like this in his 30 years with the company.
The owner of W.W.F., Loren Weatherwax, also declined to be interviewed by Tire Business and referred questions to his attorney, Eugene Hynes in Oshkosh, Neb.
"We really aren't in a position to say anything until the investigations are complete," Mr. Hynes said.
In addition to a continuing investigation by the Butler police department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is investigating the incident.
Mr. Rosenthal said a report about the incident has been turned over to the Waukesha County District Attorney's office for review. Butler is about 10 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
"I would be surprised if any charges are filed," he said.