Tractor-trailer tire goes rogue mid-drive

Workers patch a hole in the roof after a truck tire from I-76, below, lands on a roof of the PHA's Union Training Center on the 1900 block of Vare Avenue in Philadelphia on October 22, 2012. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Workers patch a hole in the roof after a truck tire from I-76, below, lands on a roof of the PHA's Union Training Center on the 1900 block of Vare Avenue in Philadelphia on October 22, 2012. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Posted: October 22, 2012

When Cornelius Mines heard two enormous thumps on the roof of the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Workforce Development Center, he thought he was in the middle of a natural disaster.

"It felt like an earthquake - the whole building shook," Mines, 20, said Monday, standing outside the center in South Philadelphia.

The real source of the thumps? A tractor-trailer truck tire, which had dislodged from a truck traveling on I-76, slammed into a Honda Accord and launched into the air, crossing Vare Avenue and finally smashing through the roof of the Workforce Development Center at 1905 Vare Ave. about 9:30 a.m.

A passenger in the Accord was taken to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for an evaluation, but for some time the driver of the tractor-trailer was nowhere to be found, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Then, later Monday afternoon, a truck driver called the state police, said public information officer Cpl. Gerard McShea. He'd arrived at his destination in New Jersey only to discover a tire was missing from his 18-wheeler. He called state police after hearing a news report about the rogue tire.

McShea said state police are inspecting the vehicle to determine whether its missing tire had indeed ended up on the roof of the Workforce Development Center, and that the driver would likely not be charged in the incident.

"We're not really giving him a hard time - he actually called us," he said.

About 30 people were in the building at the time of the incident and were evacuated shortly after. The development center, which sits just off the Vare Avenue exit on I-76, is run by the housing authority and offers pre-apprenticeship programs for a number of construction jobs.

Initially, the tire had caused a small gas leak on the roof, which a construction team contained, said Tony Manela, the heating and air-conditioning supervisor for the housing authority.

Maurice Browne, a spokesman for the housing authority, said the building was declared safe to enter late Monday morning and that damage to the roof should be repaired by Tuesday.


Contact Aubrey Whelan at 215-854-2771 or at awhelan@philly.com, or follow @aubreyjwhelan on Twitter.

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