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7 Dead in Upstate N.Y. Runaway Trailer Crash

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on May 30, 2013 11:20 AM

Seven people were killed in upstate New York after a runaway trailer collided with a minivan on a rural two-lane highway.

The crash happened south of Syracuse about 6 p.m. Wednesday, when a trailer dislodged and crossed the center line, hitting a minivan carrying eight people. Seven people in the minivan, including four children, were killed, the Associated Press reports.

While officials have yet to determine what exactly caused the accident, something made the trailer come loose. The tragedy serves as a reminder of how important it is to safely secure items being towed, especially as the summer travel season gets underway.

Potential Liability

It's not just commercial trailers that can come loose. An improperly attached boat, camper, or other towed item can potentially make you liable for injuries or, as in this tragic case, deaths.

For example, make sure hitch pins are safely secured. If a pin is missing any clips, replace it immediately. Also, don't rely on one safety chain -- use two or more.

In this case, there were thunderstorms and steady showers -- including hail -- in the area, reports the AP. During inclement weather, it is crucial to take extra steps to securely fasten the towed item.

Case in Point

If you fail to take those precautions, you could end up like 25-year-old Amanda Engelhart of Minnesota, who pleaded guilty to careless driving and unsafe equipment, reports Minneapolis' KARE-TV. Her unhitched trailer killed a father and his 3-year-old daughter.

Engelhart spent 30 days in jail, but that punishment pales in comparison to her guilt.

"You don't ever get over something like this," she told KARE. Thinking of the young widow, she continued, "I just couldn't imagine that being the last time you're seeing your little girl and your husband."

"This should never have happened," the Minnesota state trooper who conducted the investigation said about Engelhart's case. "This was completely avoidable, in every sense of the word."

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