The Pennsylvania woman, whose perseverance in face of tragedy led to the end of dangerous split rim truck wheels, died recently. Mary Ehmann Auger, 90, died June 24 in West Chester, Pa.
In July 1976, her 18-year-old son Eric was killed when a mounted truck tire he was working on exploded. Parts of the multi-piece split rim wheel struck him in the chest and head, causing massive fatal injuries.
Almost immediately, she took up a crusade to get those wheels off the market, eventually convincing Congressmen, the government and OSHA to press for legislation banning the wheels.
“My mother was an extraordinary woman who touched, affected and bettered countless lives,” said her daughter, Anne Ehmann, in a report on her death. “An incredible example of what one mother, one person, passionate about her son, change and helping others can do. How one young man’s short life, with the help of his mother, made such a difference in the world, affecting the quality of other people’s lives and preserving the safety of others and their loved ones.”
As Philly.com reported: “After her son’s death, Mary more or less accepted what authorities told her, that her son’s death was a ‘freak accident.’ But then a woman came up to her at her son’s funeral and told her that her son had died in a similar accident a few months ago.
“Within weeks, Mrs. Ehmann had heard of more cases of deaths or injuries from explosions of multi-piece wheels in her area of Pennsylvania.
“Mary’s letter caused the Insurance Institute to launch its own investigation. ‘Our institute didn’t, at that time, know a thing about multi-piece wheels.’
“It conducted demonstrations to show what could happen to these wheels as they were being worked on by unsuspecting mechanics.
“’After contacting NHTSA, talking to workmen’s compensation boards, engineers and lawyers, the institute concluded that “nowhere in the country was anyone systematically, reliably keeping data about multi-piece wheel separation incidents.’
“The institute turned up hundreds of cases of exploding wheels, including numerous fatalities. It petitioned NHTSA to develop a standard ‘that would, in effect, outlaw the manufacture of such wheels, by imposing on all truck wheels a requirement that under blow-out and run-flat conditions, they stay together and retain their tires rather than flying apart.’”
As Philly.com reported, She learned that what happened to her son was not a random occurrence, but instead was happening often, was going unreported, and was seriously injuring – if not killing – people.