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Man recalls survival story of runaway tire hitting his vehicle 2 decades ago

The news of a Burlington man’s death by a runaway tire on Highway 400 near Vaughan yesterday brought back a flood of memories to Walter Klym of Sault Ste. Marie, who survived a similar incident with his wife back in 1995.

Walter Klym was travelling on Highway 401 when a flying tire hit his car

A wheel flew off of this transport truck and went bouncing across the lanes of Highway 400 before it struck a vehicle, that lead to the death of the driver yesterday. (CBC/Shannon Martin)

The news of a Burlington man's death after his car was struck by a runaway tire has brought back a flood of memories to a man who survived a similar incident two decades ago.

"It's just like it happened yesterday now when I think back to it," said Walter Klym during an interview with host Gill Deacon on CBC's Here and Now Thursday afternoon.

The Sault Ste. Marie man was speaking about the accident that happened on Highway 400 near Vaughan on Wednesday, when a tire from transport truck slammed into an SUV. The 69-year-old driver died later in hospital. 

Back in 1995, Klym and his wife were travelling on Highway 401 towards Sarnia after visiting with their daughter and granddaughter in Kitchener, when a tire from a transport truck came barreling towards their vehicle.

"My wife yelled, 'A tire Wally, a tire'," said Klym.

"And bang. It landed on the hood of our car right near our radiator and steam started to fly."

Klym said he and his wife did not suffer any serious physical injuries, but they were left in complete shock.

"It's something you think about and talk about and you never think it's going to happen to you," said Klym.

Klym recalled just minutes prior to their accident his wife was talking about a runaway tire that flew into a vehicle in Mississauga just days before, killing the driver.

The now 82-year old man says driving still makes him uneasy.

"Anytime I see a transport coming in the other direction to me, I think of what happened to my wife and I," said Klym.

Klym told Here and Now that he's "shocked" that 20 years later wheels are still coming off of transport trucks.

"Here's another death now ... The government has not come down on these people who inspect the transports and allow this to happen again," said Klym.

An employee from Transport Leo Labelle, the Quebec transport company that owns the truck involved in Wednesday's accident, told CBC News the vehicle was last inspected on Jan. 22.

The employee added the company's trucks are inspected on a weekly basis.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) oversees the transportation ministry's truck inspection officers.

The president of OPSEU, Warren 'Smokey' Thomas, said he's not surprised by Wednesday's death on Highway 400 and said it could have been prevented.

"I think luck has run out. I think if the government doesn't do something we're going to see more of this," said Thomas during an interview with host Gill Deacon on Here and Now on Thursday.

Thomas says there are 300 truck inspectors in Ontario and the number has stayed that way for decades while the number of trucks on the roads has grown exponentially over the years.

"This is a government policy that has gone awry. This has let an industry police itself. This is relying on the goodwill of operators and it doesn't work," said Thomas.

"When you let industry regulate itself you will have a few people who will take advantage of it and in this case with tragic, tragic consequences."

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