Friday, April 12, 2024

My deepest sympathy, but...


... if ever there was a self-inflicted injury, this was it.

The Long Island doctor who was fatally thrown out of her family’s Airstream should never have been in the RV while it was in motion, the manufacturer says.

Dr. Monika Woroniecka, 58, was not following Airstream’s guidance when she was hurled out of the door of the moving trailer and onto State Route 12E in upstate New York around 3 p.m. Saturday, the company said.

“Airstream travel trailers are not designed to carry passengers while in motion,” the company said in a statement.

“The safety protocol detailed in Airstream’s operating manuals and shared on Airstream’s website advises owners that they cannot tow an Airstream with people inside,” the statement continued.

“Many states prohibit carrying passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel, and we advise owners to consult their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for up-to-date regulations.”

It also is illegal in New York to tow passengers in a “house coach trailer” while it is hitched to a vehicle and on the road.

. . .

Woroniecka struck her head on the road median, police explained.

She was pronounced dead at Samaritan Medical Center.

There's more at the link.

I'd have thought this was absolutely basic, foundational knowledge:  don't travel in any towed vehicle, ever!  It's illegal almost everywhere I know, and almost all manufacturers of such vehicles warn against the practice as well.  Yet now the deceased's daughter is apparently trying to put at least some of the blame for the tragedy on Airstream.

“This was an accident. Pure accident, and there’s nobody to blame. This is nobody’s fault,” Helena said. 

“Sure, maybe Airstream doesn’t advise traveling inside the trailer. But we thought maybe that the last 20 minutes of an eight-hour drive on very quiet and slow country roads would be fine,” Helena said.

“And it’s perfectly legal to do so in some states.

“It was just a crazy accident,” she said.

Still, “The doors on the Airstream open the opposite way that you would expect. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to know that on any moving vehicle, whether a bus or a car or a trailer, doors should open against the wind, not towards it,” Helena told The Post.

“That seems like a significant safety oversight to me and seems like the only reason they do open that way is to protect the awning of the trailer.”

Again, more at the link.

No, young lady, this was no safety oversight, and there's no flaw in the design, because the door was never intended to be opened - from within or outside - while the trailer was in motion!  When the trailer is parked, it's an entirely safe design.

As a pastor and chaplain, I've long since lost count of the number of surviving relatives of a victim of tragedy who've tried to blame anyone and anything they can think of for their loved one's death.  It might be another driver, or a police officer or EMS vehicle that didn't respond quickly or effectively enough (in their opinion), or even the attending chaplain for not praying hard enough (yes, I've actually been accused of that!).  People appear to find it impossible to accept that "pure" accidents happen, where someone is killed solely because they happened to be at the scene at the wrong time, or nature did her sometimes terminal thing (e.g. a lightning strike, or a tree falling due to internal rot) just when someone happened to be standing there.

Life happens.  So does death.  Sometimes there's no explanation possible.  Sometimes somebody or something else is to blame.  However, there are times - such as this incident - where the explanation is simply that the victim did something foolish, and paid the price.

May God rest Dr. Woroniecka's soul, and bring what comfort there may be to those who survive her.  That's all one can say.



MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter,

It is the cynical part of me is thinking that some bottom feeding lawyer has already gotten hold of her and they are shopping for a "lawsuit Friendly" venue to drop a bomb on Airstream.

Aesop said...

"I'm a doctor; I'm smarter than the rules!" - the NTSB accident summary of every aircraft accident featuring a medical doctor as pilot

heresolong said...

Why the h - e - double hockey sticks was she even trying to open the door while the trailer was moving anyway? I get wanting to lie down because you aren't feeling well. Good chance you'll be fine in the trailer, but opening the door? That's just idiotic (we're not allowed, in our society, to say the "R" word any more).

As far as "the only reason they do open that way is to protect the awning of the trailer" I'll throw out a flat "No!". It opens that way because it is located towards the front of the trailer and because when you come out you will most likely be moving towards the middle of the trailer, which is where the seating area is under said awning.

That perfectly good reason aside, what's wrong with designing the door to open in such a way as to protect the awning anyway?


Some jury, however, being made up of idiots, will award the family millions and the rest of us will pay more for our camper trailers should we ever decide to buy one.

Aggie said...

I figured, if Clint Eastwood and Laura Dern can do it, so can I.

The Other Andrew B said...

My mother was struck and killed by a car while she was in a crosswalk. The police who responded noted that the motorist was travelling too fast to stop and was at fault. In spite of that, the motorist sued my mother's estate for the emotional trauma of my mother's corpse crashing through her windshield.

My father was forced to countersue, which then spurred the motorist's lawyer to dredge up all of my mother's medical history. In the end, what should have been an open-and-shut case dragged on for 8 years. My father prevailed, but by then the legal fees ate up almost the entire settlement. My brother and I, as her surviving children, each received the princely sum of $180.

I have never felt anything but contempt for the legal system since then.

Whisky Priest said...

Anyone who's been in a school bus knows how difficult moving around in a moving vehicle can be - why on earth would you open a door?

TheOtherSean said...

There used to be travel trailers and designed to be occupied while traveling. The Curtiss Aerocar and original 1930's era Bowlus Road Chief trailers are excellent examples. There were also transit trailers used by some city bus companies, towed behind regular buses along the heaviest routes. However, back in the 30's or 40's there was a deadly accident with an open farm trailer hauling workers to a field, after which a slew of states began outright banning or at least severely limiting riding in a towed vehicle such as a trailer. Since then, trailers haven't typically been designed for occupation while in motion.

SiGraybeard said...

When they call her a doctor, is that medical doctor, or doctor of English or some aggrieved minority studies? Like Dr. Jill.

boron said...

I agree; y' should never open a door in a moving trailer - OTOH if there aren't any doors...
My uncle used to pile us kids in an open-sided _ well, cart might be a good word for it - for a trip to town towed behind his Ford pickup.

Judy said...

Ah, the stages of grief. It sounds like the daughter has some work to do.  The acceptance that the mother was an idiot in the moments preceding her death doesn't make Airstream responsible for the mother's death.

Aesop said...


You don't really suppose her being an idiot just cropped up that particular day, now do you...? :)

Dan said...

The death is the result of stupidity. Something becoming almost epidemic in society.
The pending lawsuit is a result of greed. Greed on the part of the family who refuses
to accept reality and greed on the part of the legal profession...who SHOULD know better
but for whom greed is the only motivator.

Tom Bridgeland said...

A side note on stupidity and vehicular accidents. It's spring, the weather is fine. A perfect day for your first motorcycle ride of the year. And drinking beer. I'm a nurse in an ICU. We got our first, but certainly not last motorcycle crash victim of the season yesterday. No helmet, of course.

Intubated, wounds all over the face, a chest tube, gashes on arms and legs.

John T. Block said...

One wonders exactly WHAT SUBJECT the decease's Doctorate was IN. Not that it really matters, I worked with a very nice lady, a Social Worker at the Md. State Mental Hospital I worked at as a driver in the motor pool. She held FOUR DOCTORATES, but you'd have to bring her in out of the rain. A pity; she was a genuinely nice person, yet totally helpless. Got hurt numerous times not paying attention to the signals an aggravated patient was broadcasting like an FM radio station...

JoshO said...

Remind me of that old Foxworthy bit about the cop pulling over his dad. "No sir, its not illegal to tow a boat but we do require you to put it on a trailor. Now could you ask your friends to get out of the boat, sir?

Rick554 said...

1974, UTapao Air Base, I was a truck driver so they assigned me to drive the “Cattle Car”. A hundred people in a trailer that well, looked like a cattle car! The job was to haul these people to the flight line from the chow hall where they worked on the jets. I was in-country about two weeks. In Thailand they drive on the wrong side of the road. Off we went! The first right turn I misjudged the turn, the rear tires hit the curb and sent half the people flying into the other half. After the swearing , screaming and moaning was over, they put me on a bulldozer. Never drove the cattle car again! 😁. REDHORSE!