NHTSA Investigating Fatal Natural Gas Vehicle Accident


Three months following a tragic natural gas vehicle accident that killed a man and injured his passenger, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it plans to launch an investigation into the incident.

As reported by NGT News in early April, 59-year-old Gerald Throw was fatally injured when the forklift he was transporting in a box truck shifted while turning into a driveway and either pierced or otherwise compromised a part of the truck's behind-the-cab compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system, causing a catastrophic release of high-pressure gas.

Trade association NGVAmerica and the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation were able to confirm that one of the CNG cylinders on the Freightliner truck was ‘impacted by a fork near the top of the sidewall and ruptured into two pieces.’

Local authorities in Howard, Wis., where the accident occurred, told NGT at the time that the incident appeared to be ‘a singular event’ and that a Brown County Sheriff's Office accident-reconstruction team would be working on the case. Ed Janke, the village of Howard's director of public safety, also told NGT that the CNG system did not appear degraded in any obvious way.

Late last month, the sheriff's office issued its final report about the incident, finding that the forklift was not secured in the rear of the truck and confirming that one of the forks penetrated a CNG tank.

And now, ‘A preliminary evaluation has been opened to assess the fuel system integrity of the subject vehicle,’ according to documents from the NHTSA.

The NHTSA told NGT that it cannot comment on an open investigation. The agency's overall goal with any investigation, however, is to determine if a safety recall on a vehicle or vehicle equipment is necessary.

In the case of the NGV accident in Howard, what is known is that the body on the 2014 Freightliner M2 was manufactured by Delta Waseca Inc., and the CNG system was from Agility Fuel Systems Inc.

As a matter of course, the NHTSA gathers information from manufacturers during the preliminary evaluation phase of any investigation, looking at data related to accidents, injuries and other aspects of the case. The agency then ‘determines whether further analysis is warranted.’ At this point, a case is either closed (because the NHTSA determines that further analysis is not justified, or a manufacturer issues a recall) or moves into the engineering analysis phase in order to more deeply examine a potential equipment defect.

The agency says most preliminary evaluations are wrapped up within four months. NGT will keep readers apprised of how this case progresses.

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