Teen hit by tire that comes off truck

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A 15-year-old girl walking to school Thursday was struck by a tire that separated from a passing pickup truck, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said the girl was walking along Woodlawn Road when the tire separated from the truck's axle, bounced along the road and struck the girl from behind.

Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan was the first responder to the scene and talked to the girl. She was conscious and alert as she was taken to Flagler Hospital with minor injuries.

Deputies spoke with the driver and will try to find out why the tire came off.

This marks the second time this week a freak accident like this has happened in north Florida. On Monday, the front wheel of a 1999 Toyota broke off the car and went through the front of a building in Williston, killing one man and injuring another.

John Warren, owner of John's Automotive in Jacksonville, said he sees cars that come into his shop with tire problems either caused by worn out bearings or ball joints. He said that for a problem that might cause a tire to fall off, one would almost certainly need a professional to discover it.

"You'd be surprised. A ball joint can break. Stuff like that. It happens all the time," Warren said. "We probably get at least once a month where a wheel has broken free in some way or another."

"You would have to have the wheel off the ground to notice it. It would have to be real bad with the wheel leaning in for you yourself to notice it," Warren added.

Warren said only a few things can cause this to happen.

"Just lack of maintenance. Wheel bearings and stuff like that can cause a wheel to fall off and be very dangerous," he said. "Usually it's not the axle itself that is the problem. It's the wheel bearing that causes the axle problem."

Warren said drivers should have their tires and bearings checked at least every six months. He also said they're usually checked during normal service.

Investigators in both instances said they're looking into whether the vehicles involved recently had work done on them.

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