Our country lost a hero last week. He was a miracle worker and an icon to all of us who love the game of hockey. What we do not know is how or why he died.
Last week Herb Brooks was driving home from a Hockey Hall of Fame event golfing tournament in the mid-afternoon. He was alone in his van. Witness accounts state that his van veered right to the shoulder, overcorrected across two lanes of I-35W near Forest Lake and rolled into the median, ejecting the coach of the Miracle on Ice Olympic Team.
There is speculation that Herb Brooks fell asleep and that he was not wearing a seatbelt. This speculation is based upon his drifting right to the shoulder, no evidence of drinking or drug use and his ejection from the van.
Why do we assume that Herb Brooks was not wearing a seat belt? Was it his habit not to wear a belt? Was he from a generation that refused to wear a belt or wore it sometimes?
In my practice, it is common that police, highway patrolmen and the public speculate on accident scenarios based upon assumptions. One common assumption is that if you are ejected from a vehicle you were not wearing your belt. This assumption is not always correct. Seatbelts do fail.
What I mean by failure is that they can false latch creating a false sense of security that you are safely buckled in. When a false latch occurs, the buckle can release under pressure of a force caused by a crash. There are hundreds, if not thousands of documented cases of this occurring not only with car seat belts but with extension ladders, child car seats and other protective devices. False latch is a safety hazard that can be eliminated by proper safety engineering and design.
My only point here is that do not assume that Herb Brooks died because he failed to wear a seat belt. Fact is, he might have been wearing it and it failed. I know about similar cases because I am working on one right now.
And by the way, why did the van roll? Sometimes we need to ask these questions. It is not enough to simply shrug our shoulders in a free country that values human life and say “-hit happens”.