LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 17, 2001)—Almost three years after a truck tire explosion killed 17-year-old Canadian high school student Dwight Peel, the International Tire & Rubber Association has established a scholarship program in his name to help prevent similar accidents.
The ITRA board approved 10 scholarships at $1,000 each that will be awarded to selected ITRA members who post $2 million or less in annual sales and have no access to training support from tire makers, said Marvin Bozarth, ITRA executive director.
Selected commercial dealerships can then use the scholarship to pay for tuition costs of ITRA's Certified Commercial Tire Service Instructor Training program, or for both tuition and travel costs to Louisville for training at the association's headquarters, he said.
The Dwight Peel scholarship is the brainchild of Mr. Bozarth, who said ITRA felt that "had Dwight Peel been through this training program, (the accident) probably wouldn't have happened to him." Thus, the scholarship was established to focus on training in the area of tire and wheel repair.
On June 27, 1998, Dwight—a popular student and local hockey star who worked after school for W2 Tire & Auto Repair Ltd. in Onoway, Alberta—was reinflating a tire from a gravel truck that had blown off its wheel after hitting a rock in a quarry. As he leaned the tire against another vehicle and bent over to check the air pressure, the tire and wheel violently separated, hitting Dwight in the head and flinging him towards a bay door. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
W2 Tire has since been purchased by another dealership and Con-Tec Tire & Auto Ltd. An investigation of the accident by Alberta Labour's Occupational Health & Safety unit found that W2 Tire had failed to adequately inspect the tire and one-piece rim, failed to follow the tire maker's specifications, failed to ensure that a known hazard was brought to the worker's attention, and failed to protect the health and safety of Dwight or provide him with adequate training. The dealership's former owners were fined for the various infractions.
Mr. Bozarth noted that Dwight probably didn't know that the one-piece wheel had been damaged and assumed it was a routine mounting and inflation task. He probably had seen someone throw a tire over a wheel "over a hundred times but who would have thought that the bead would have blown off the back side," because that rarely happens, he said.
Mr. Bozarth also told Tire Business that one of his sons had worked in the commercial tire business with little experience or training, "and the same thing could have happened to him. That's the way we've always done it in this industry. You watch somebody else (mount a tire), and you assume they're doing it right.
"Unfortunately, that doesn't work anymore because there's just too much of a risk."
Commercial dealers were able to apply for the scholarships on behalf of their employees at ITRA's Expo, April 19-21 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., when ITRA was scheduled to roll out the program.
The first of the 10 scholarships will be awarded on June 27, the third anniversary of Dwight's death. Mr. Bozarth said the association probably will award the scholarship every year around that time. Dealers also can contact ITRA at (502) 968-8900 for applications.