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Monster Truck Case

Monster Truck

Filled with excitement and anticipation, six year old Sebastian Hizey, along with his father, step mom, sisters and brother, went to watch his first Monster Truck show at the Tacoma Dome on January 16, 2009. The show was entertaining and fun and … loud. Sebastian couldn’t stop smiling. But as Sebastian and his family joked and laughed, a metal loop from a crippled Monster Truck’s rear drive shaft protective assembly separated and flew off the truck, spun up into the stands where it struck Sebastian in the head, and killed him in front of his horrified family.

Within days of the tragedy, SKW had the drive shaft protective assembly examined by an automotive engineer and metallurgist. The investigation revealed insufficient welds at the critical attachment of the protective loop to small secondary loops. In total, half of the critical attachments between the small loops and the protective loops showed an insufficient weld and fracture. Predictable damage to the Monster Truck’s drive shaft -- occurring during the freestyle portion of the show when the underside of the truck slammed onto a car-- turned the drive shaft into a propeller and flung two metal loops into the viewing stands, one of which killed Sebastian. Interviewed by the Associated Press after the tragedy, a spokesperson for the event’s promoter claimed that what happened with the Monster Truck in Tacoma was an unprecedented event. SKW engaged in a nationwide investigation that uncovered evidence of prior, similar incidents.

SKW’s investigation also revealed that, had it followed its own rules, the Monster Truck show’s promoter could have still avoided the tragedy in spite of the Monster Truck’s design and manufacturing flaws. United States Hot Rod Association (USHRA) rules require the use of a remote ignition interrupter (RII) at the first sign of trouble. Video and photographs taken in the moments before the truck showered the Tacoma Dome’s viewing stands with metal debris depict a truck in trouble; sparks from the underside of the Monster Truck are clearly visible long before the drive shaft protective assembly loops fly into the stands. A properly trained RII operator would have remotely shut down the truck at the first sign of trouble. That did not happen in Tacoma. In addition, USHRA rules require the use of a red light at either end of the arena to signal an immediate cessation of an event requiring a driver to bring a vehicle to an immediate stop. Video and photographs of the performance clearly show a red light replacing a green light at each end of the arena long before the driveline broke from the truck. A properly trained RII operator and truck driver would have immediately shut down the truck on a red light. All involved had more than sufficient time to shut down the truck and to avoid the catastrophic drive shaft failure that led to Sebastian’s death.

SKW represented Sebastian’s parents and three siblings, all of whom witnessed Sebastian’s horrific death. In August of 2009, SKW helped Sebastian’s family and his Estate reach a confidential settlement with the owner/manufacturer of the Monster Truck and the promoter who put on the event.