Report: Evidence of faulty brakes on dump truck

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016


The truck Michael Collins was driving the day he backed into the Mississippi River while waiting to pick up a load of rock, had brakes that likely did not function properly and possibly had issues with opening the driver’s side door from the inside.

That’s the conclusion of a Vicksburg Police Department report on the incident, obtained Tuesday by The Vicksburg Post.

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Vicksburg Police Traffic Investigator Leonce O. Young concluded his report by writing, “It is my opinion that the vehicle should have been deadlined (or taken out of service), due to several brake leaks to the front and rear axles, the missing brake booster on the center axle where there were no brakes evident to the cap air brake line and missing components.”

Collins, and the 1995 Volvo dump truck he was driving, went into the river at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 23 at the Florida Marine Rock Yard, 2222 Warrenton Road in Vicksburg.

The truck was located later that night deep in the river underneath the barge that contained the rock being unloaded onto the dump trucks. However, it was 11 days later before Collins’ body was recovered, less than a mile downriver from where he went into the water.

“That truck, immediately after being recovered, was transported to a secure location outside Warren County and kept under lock and key until representatives of OSHA could arrive to inspect it,” Vicksburg Chief of Police Walter Armstrong said.

Collins, 22, was an employee of Riverside Aggregating Construction Co., which was contracted to unload the barge.

One witness at the scene, Jimmy Watkins of Rector, Ark., told Vicksburg Police Officer Russell Dorsey on the day of the incident, that he saw Collins backing up to wait for his load, but that he was “unable to stop the truck as if the brakes went out.”

Watkins told Dorsey the truck then rolled backwards into the river with the door open, but said as soon as the dump truck went into the water, the door slammed shut, and the truck went underwater quickly with Collins still inside.

Young joined the investigation on Aug. 24. In his report, Young said he interviewed witness William B. Jones of Vicksburg, also a truck driver, who told him he was getting ready to be loaded with material under the hopper when he saw Collins pull up and start to back his vehicle in the standby area.

Jones told Young when Collins started to back up he never slowed down. Jones said he saw Collins leaning over the steering wheel of his vehicle as he was going off the ramp to the left into the water backwards.

Young reports Jones told him Collins had complained about the vehicles’ brakes.

Watkins, who also talked to Young, said he noticed Collins trying to open the door, or that maybe had the door open as the vehicle was going into the water.

Young reported that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials took over the investigation after arriving on scene, and that his role became one of assisting OSHA investigators.

Young, along with VPD’s Dorsey, traveled on Aug. 25 to Pearl, where the dump truck, which had been recovered from the Mississippi River, was being stored. There, they joined an OSHA investigator as well as Michael Cain of Rimus Consulting Group and Lewis Miller, owner of Riverside Aggregating Construction Co., for inspection of the vehicle’s braking assembly, drive and gear assembly in its cab area and inside cab door lock assembly.

Young wrote in his report that after taking off the left side rear wheel, it was noted that there was no heavy wear on the rotors or disc brakes and a new brake line was added to the vehicle’s rear wheels.

“We looked deeper into the center undercarriage where the brake booster is located. There was evidence of leakage from the rear booster. While noticing the second set of wheels going toward the cab of the vehicle, there was no brakes due to the booster being removed and the air line plug, as evident by picture taking,” Young wrote. “The front left side braking system had a leak and had been leaking for awhile due to the dirt buildup from the hydraulic fluid dripping from the brake lines.”

Young said the brake system assembly on the vehicle is a two-stage system and needs air and hydraulic fluid to work properly. He said the front left side brake assembly rotors and brake pads looked to be in good working order. He also said the two brake-fluid reservoirs were filled to proper levels.

Young reported it was difficult to open the driver’s side cab door from the outside, but that it did open. However, he said every attempt to open the door from the inside failed.

Young wrote in his report that Miller said he had recently replaced the inside door latch because the driver reported it was hard to open the door. Young also reported that Miller said the driver of the truck, presumably Miller, “never used his seat belt.”

Stan Collins, Michael Collins’ father, said this morning he had no comment on the contents of the police report into his son’s fatal accident.

“As of right now, I am without legal representation, and I’m afraid of making a comment,” Collins said.

Lewis Miller, owner of Riverside Aggregating Construction Co., for whom Michael Collins worked, did not return a phone call seeking comment.