PORT ANGELES — The State Patrol has determined that screws left on U.S. Highway 101 near Port Angeles that punctured tires on at least 300 vehicles last week were likely dropped onto the highway by accident.
“At this point it looks like it was unintentional,” said Trooper Chelsea Hodgson. “It’s a secure-load issue. This is a good reminder for folks to secure your load because this can happen.”
The screws began puncturing tires sometime last Monday morning. Within 24 hours Les Schwab in Port Angeles and Discount Tire in Sequim had seen about 300 customers, many of whom reported picking up the screws near Morse Creek east of Port Angeles.
Hodgson said it was likely accidental. A witness told troopers that they saw a box of screws intact on the highway before it was hit, leading troopers to believe it fell out of someone’s vehicle.
Crews with the Department of Transportation arrived to the area last Monday and recovered hundreds of screws, said spokesperson Tina Werner.
It took six workers 3 to 4 hours to clear the road using a 30-pound, 4-foot-wide magnet.
“It’s important to note that when incidents like this happen, it actually takes our crews away from other scheduled maintenance activities along the highways, such as mowing and pavement repairs, that were supposed to be occurring in the area to respond to this particular scene,” Werner said.
“We need drivers to remember to secure their loads to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future so our crews can continue with other important highway work.”
Though some drivers reported picking up screws in other areas, Werner said WSDOT only recovered screws on Highway 101 at Morse Creek.
A trooper contacted a local tire store and determined that there was only one business in the area that received a shipment of those particular screws. However, that store’s shipment arrived in full, so troopers know the driver of that truck was not responsible.
Troopers were unable to determine what vehicle dropped the load and who is responsible.
Hodgson urges anyone who sees a vehicle losing its load to call it in with information about the license plate number, a description of the vehicle and location.
“Without that kind of information it’s hard to find who’s responsible,” she said.
Anyone who fails to secure his or her load is in violation of state law and can face an infraction or criminal charges.
Hodgson said that anyone who has information can still contact the State Patrol by calling 360-473-0300. Anyone who sees an active hazard in the roadway should call 9-1-1.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].