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HOUSTON, Minn. - Kristie Cox made French toast for breakfast on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. She kissed goodbye her husband Jeremy and two children as they headed for the library. A couple hours later, life would end as she knew it.
"I just fell to the ground. All the air just left me," Cox recalled recently, tears streaming down her cheeks. "My world just shattered."
Jeremy and 3-year-old Isabel were killed when an empty flatbed trailer unhitched from an oncoming pickup, crossed the centerline and plowed hitch-first through the windshield of the Cox's Honda CRV.
Kristie and Jeremy's 11-month-old son Liam - in the backseat next to Isabel - wasn't injured. But with her husband and daughter gone, Kristie Cox's loss was beyond comprehension.
Three years later, as Memorial Day weekend again approaches, she still shudders at the prospect of boat, camper and utility trailers improperly attached by their drivers.
"Even the word 'accident' - for the longest time I just hated that word because, in so many ways, it was not an accident," Cox said.
A state patrol investigation revealed that a clip was missing from the bottom of a hitch pin, allowing the trailer to break free before it slammed into the Cox's SUV. Further evidence showed one of the trailer's two safety chains was also missing.
"This should never have happened," said Kelley McGraw, the Minnesota state trooper who conducted the investigation. "This was completely avoidable, in every sense of the word."
The driver of the tow vehicle, 25-year-old Amanda Engelhart, pleaded guilty to careless driving and unsafe equipment. She spent 30 days in jail.
Under state law, Engelhart bore the responsibility for the crash even though the trailer did not belong to her and had been attached by a family friend. "If the trailer you're using isn't safe, you're responsible as the driver," said McGraw. "Ultimately it rests on you."
Engelhart has since moved to Rochester. In a tearful interview, she said not a day goes by that she doesn't think about the crash and the lives it took. "You don't ever get over something like this," she said. "I just couldn't imagine that being the last time you're seeing your little girl and your husband."
Minnesota does not keep statistics on deaths and injuries caused by trailers detaching. The website Dangerous Trailers.org claims, nationwide, more than 15,000 people have been killed by trailers since 1975.
Kristie Cox has kept Isabel's bedroom undisturbed since her death - even the clothes in the hamper. "Because if I wash them, they won't smell like her," she said. "Three years later, I just can't."
Cox hopes people who hear the story will think of her husband and daughter when they hook up their trailers. "You need to educate yourself or ask someone who knows. Go online and look - 'How do I hook up this up correctly?' - and do it every single time, because it was that one time that took my husband and daughter."
Watch the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's tips on how to attach a trailer safely.
Here is the facts!! The United States Government has never tested to a NATIONAL STANDARD FOR ALL HITCHES AND TOWING SYSTEMS IN THE UNITED STATES!!!! All safety STANDARDS ARE 'VOLUNTARY'
The United States Government HAS NO CLUE HOW TO HANDLE THESE TYPES OF RECALLS...THEY NEVER ISSUED ONE!
More than 40,000 Nissan Navara utes have been recalled in Australia over a defect relating to the vehicles’ towbars.
Nissan has identified the attachment points on two of the Nissan Australia genuine accessory towbars fitted to Navara RX and ST-X variants can cause “excessive stress upon the chassis frame rails over time”.
“As a result, cracks can occur at the ends of the rails,” Nissan said in a statement. “In extreme cases, sections of the chassis rails around the towbar attachment points may bend when heavy load is applied.”
Nissan Australia is recalling 40,400 Nissan Navara D40
models produced in Spain between July 2005 and January 2010, including
9800 known to be fitted with the affected Nissan genuine towbars and
33,600 others potentially fitted with non-genuine parts.
Nissan says affected owners will be contacted and encouraged to arrange an inspection of their vehicle at an authorised dealership.
Vehicles fitted with one of the two affected Nissan genuine towbars will have it replaced with a new genuine towbar of revised design free of charge, with rectification work to also be completed if required.
Vehicles fitted with a non-genuine towbar will be inspected at no charge to owners but any repair or replacement to a new revised-design genuine Nissan towbar will be at cost to the owner.
Owners looking for more information are encouraged to contact the Nissan Customer Service Centre on 1800 035 035.