HILLSDALE, N.Y. (April 18, 2001) — A 38-year-old garage owner was killed and a 19-year-old employee injured March 27 when a steel radial truck tire they were inflating exploded in a possible "zipper" rupture, leaving a 23-inch gash in the tire's sidewall.
George R. Stalker Sr., owner of George's Auto & Truck Repair on Route 22 in Hillsdale, died en route to a nearby hospital after being struck in the chest and abdomen by the blast. An employee, John Zigon, who along with Mr. Stalker's son, George Jr., was helping to inflate the tire, also suffered injuries to the face and leg but later was released from the hospital.
George Stalker Jr. said the explosion "sounded like a bomb" going off. He said air from the blast hurled Mr. Stalker from five to eight feet.
Local rescue workers, responding to the emergency at 3:47 p.m., found Mr. Stalker on the ground suffering from what they described as "blunt trauma." He was rushed to Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Mass., but succumbed to his injuries on the way, authorities said.
The victim's son said the tire, an 11R24.5 Goodyear radial, was discovered to be flat the morning of the accident. The younger Mr. Stalker said he had tried unsuccessfully to inflate the tire while still on the vehicle but was unable to get the shop's air tank close enough to do so. He said he then removed the tire and wheel and replaced it with another assembly so that the truck's driver could be on his way.
The three men were trying to determine the cause of the air loss when the accident occurred later that day. No inflation cage or clip-on air chuck were in use at the time of the accident, according to the victim's son.
The younger Mr. Stalker said his father had "always preached safety to us" and had been working with tires since his youth.
The elder Mr. Stalker had owned the business since 1985 but had worked in the repair field all his life, his son said.
"I've been by my father's side since I was a kid," he said. "Everywhere he went I was there. I'm only 18 years old and it's hard because I've got to take over and everythingÃ¹me and my mother."
Mr. Stalker is survived by his wife, Betty D. Stalker, six sons and four grandchildren.