Man killed when tire flies off trailer, strikes car on Route 28

SHALER TOWNSHIP, Pa. — One person was killed when a detached truck tire bounced across Route 28 Friday morning and smashed into an oncoming car.

The accident happened just before 11 a.m. near the Shaler Water Facility.

Channel 11's Alan Jennings reported the tire came from a Ford F-450 with a tarp-covered trailer that was heading south on Route 28.

Channel 11's Rick Earle reported the victim's car was driving north when the tire hopped over the Jersey barrier and hit the driver's side windshield.

A man was driving and his wife was in the back seat because she has a boot on her leg.

The Medical Examiner has identified the victim as 75-year-old Robert Lofink, of Gibsonia. His wife was not seriously injured.

Police said the driver of the truck -- identified as 23-year-old Eric Gonzales-Huerta -- did not stay at the scene of the accident.

Shaler police told Earle the truck and trailer got as far as the McKees Rocks Bridge before they realized their wheel was missing. Gonzales-Huerta said he then turned around to retrace his steps.

More than an hour later, during Channel 11 News at Noon, Chopper 11 spotted a truck on Route 28 matching the description. It was approximately a mile from the accident scene.

Moments later, police pulled over the truck, and then shortly thereafter, Gonzales-Huerta was taken into custody.

According to police, Gonzales-Huerta is the owner of the truck and the trailer. He is from Kentucky, but had been contracted to do work in the Pennsylvania area.

Gonzales-Huerta did not have a valid driver's license and neither the truck nor the trailer were insured, police said.

Authorities later told Channel 11 News that a person who was following the truck over the 31st Street Bridge called police because she saw the vehicle description on the WPXI-TV Pittsburgh Facebook page.

Heather Piergalski told Channel 11 News she’s extremely happy she was able to help police.

At approximately 1 p.m., Channel 11 News was there as Gonzales-Huerta walked into the police station in handcuffs. Two other people were also walked into the station -- not in handcuffs.

Family members and friends gathered at Lofink’s home Friday night to help each other through this difficult time. Neighbors told Channel 11 that Lofink was a wonderful person and a great neighbor.

According to police, Gonzales-Huerta will be charged with violations of Title 75, namely accidents involving death or serious bodily injury, and accidents involving death while not properly licensed, license and insurance violations.

Earle reported one of the passengers is from Mexico. The other passenger, Marvin Lopez, is from Honduras.

Lopez told Earle he has lived in the United States for seven years. He currently lives in Latrobe.

According to Lopez, they were carrying roofing shingles to a landfill in McKees Rocks. He said they realized something was wrong with the tire when they got to the landfill, so they went back.

“I’m upset because of the death,” Lopez said.

Earle reported Lopez and the other passenger were released and will not be charged.

The northbound lanes of Route 28 were closed while crews investigated.

Route 28 reopened around 3 p.m. Channel 11's Trisha Pittman advised motorists to use alternate routes because of heavy residual delays.

This is the second time this fall that someone has died in this kind of crash.

In September, Scott Rice, of Gibsonia, was killed in a crash on Interstate 79 near the Mount Nebo exit. Police said the crash was caused when tires flew off a tractor-trailer, hitting Rice’s SUV and causing him to lose control.

Two other people were hurt in that crash.