• September 16, 2021

Blake Mulder Killed by Falling Steel Coil from 18-Wheeler on US-127 in St. Clair Twp, OH

UPDATE (May 19, 2022): Recent reports say that truck driver Keith Blackwell was charged with vehicular manslaughter and unsecured load in connection to the Ohio accident that took the life of Blake Mulder. Blackwell was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of supervised community control, ordered to have no contact with the victim’s family, and required take 40 hours of semi truck driving safety classes. His license is suspended until September 2023.

St. Clair Township, OH -- September 15, 2021, 33-year-old Blake Anthony Mulder was killed when his vehicle was hit by a large steel coil that fell off a tractor-trailer in Butler County.

Authorities say the incident happened around 6:20 a.m. along U.S. Highway 127 (Hamilton Eaton Road) near Morganthaler Road. Preliminary investigation suggests a commercial 18-wheeler owned by Total Package Express Inc. out of Cincinnati was northbound on the highway with a large steel coil, weighing approximately 10 tons, fastened onto its trailer. The steel coil, which investigators later said was not secured by straps or chains, fell into the southbound lane and struck a Ford Edge driven by Mulder. The impact caused the Ford to spin off the right sight of the roadway near a line of trees. Reports indicate the commercial truck driver stopped a short distance down the road and called 911, but told responders no one was hit by the coil.

Mulder was ejected during the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

No further information is currently available as the investigation continues.

Commentary on Blake Mulder Accident on US-127 in St. Clair Township

An accident like this can be far more complex than it seems, which may surprise some people. After all, police said it happened because cargo fell off of a trailer; doesn't that mean the truck driver and his company are automatically responsible? It's a little premature to connect those dots, as there are a few other considerations.

For one, trucking companies can still deny liability all they want. They can claim that they secured the cargo but something beyond their driver's control knocked it loose. They could even try to blame the victim for "improper evasive maneuvers" if they thought it might get them off the hook. Unless clear evidence points to them as the at-fault parties, they're free to throw anything at the wall in hopes it will stick. That's why it's critical for victims affected by crashes like this to have ample proof of what (and who) caused the accident.

Blake Mulder Killed by Falling Steel Coil from 18-Wheeler on US-127 in St. Clair Twp, OH

To that end investigators must look into more than just the company hauling the cargo from A to B, as it's possible other parties are to blame as well. Here's an example from another case I worked on: In that situation a steel slab was put on a trailer much too short for it, causing the cargo to hang dangerously off the back. To make matters worse, the only visibility measure the company added was a tattered red flag about the size of a handkerchief, so worn out it was practically invisible to approaching motorists. Due to this lack of appropriate care the slab hung out over the road, mostly undetectable, as the truck traveled at night. A car approached it from the rear and without a visible flag to help him gauge the depth of the slab, the driver rear-ended it and suffered fatal injuries.

It didn't take long to prove that the trucking company hauling the steel failed in their duty to make sure the cargo was loaded and carried safely, but that wasn't all. Continued investigations found that the slab's manufacturers actually loaded it up in the first place. They too failed to properly perform their duty by settling for too small a trailer and not properly dealing with the excess. By allowing that cargo to leave without taking reasonable precautions to make sure it was loaded safely, they too shared liability for what happened to the victim.

Some were inclined just to blame the transportation firm in that matter, much as they may be tempted to in the crash on US-127. However, from long experience I know that "many hands make lighter work" and many heavy industries (manufacturing, construction, logistics) feel the same. Trucking firms often don't load the cargo, they just move it. If someone else strapped that coil down improperly (or even failed to secure it at all as investigators say), they should be held accountable as well.

Because this is a legal blog people sometimes think I'm just looking for as many "bad guys" as possible, but that's never my point. The fact of the matter is an innocent man was killed here, and that seems to trace back to negligence on one or more people's part. If someone's out there taking shortcuts, whether that's a matter of an individual's mistake or a company-wide pattern of carelessness, they're putting lives at risk. Anyone that behaves like that must be confronted and made to clean up their act. Holding one party accountable may be some progress, but it's less than ideal if another company continues being reckless. It simply wouldn't be right for anyone responsible for this tragedy to escape consequences.


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