When I was in college I was puttering along I-95 on my little motorcycle; it was a lovely spring day.

Suddenly, the truck ahead of me had a sheet of plywood peel off the back. More plywood slid off the side of the truck and onto the shoulder of the highway. The sheet that had peeled off flipped up in the air, and over – I ducked and it went over my head. All of this happened cooly and instinctively and I shifted to the left and got away from that truck. It wasn’t until I was a few miles down the road that shock set in and I had to pull over, park the bike, and lie on the grass with my helmet off, whooping for air.

Road hazards kill people every year. Another sobering incident was the time I was driving by a public park in Maryland in black powder hunting season and something hard hit my windshield and bounced off, leaving a small crack. Just another reason to despise hunters – one of the bastards tried to kill me. It was probably an accidental juxtaposition between my car and the bullet, but it was still a shot fired deliberately by someone.

For its usual mysterious reasons, youtube fed me several links to various views of this incident:

The big semis carry really stupendous loads – 25,000 – 60,000lbs. In this case, a load of steel balls – 40,000lbs of them – dumped onto a sloping street in Seattle. They began doing what balls would do, namely: rolling down the street.

In fact I have a lovely 3″ chrome/alloy (“stainless steel”) ball bearing sitting right by my desk and it weighs about 10lb. Getting hit with that is better than getting hit with a shot from a 10lb napoleonic cannon but, basically, that truck was dumping cannon balls.

It looks like the back door of the truck came unlatched and the bag holding the balls fell out, dragged a few more, and abraded until balls began leaking out like some kind of odd seed-dispenser. A semi-trailer is so powerful that it wouldn’t notice the dragging unless the driver happened to look out the back.

Clean-up took 6 hours. That trucker had a bad day at work. [seattle]


  1. DonDueed says

    Imagine calling your auto insurance agent to report the damage and trying to explain that you were pelted by dozens of steel balls.

    I don’t think “What the heck?” would be the extent of the reaction.

    Lucky they had the dash cam, or were quick enough with their phone camera.

  2. cmconnelly says

    On our way back from a long road trip (including hours of driving through the mountains), just a couple of miles from home on the 210, a piece of sheet metal suddenly appeared in midair, heading right at us. Luckily it spun down toward the ground instead of hitting the windshield, but it still did a lot of expensive damage to the bumper and front lights. Life is scary.

  3. dangerousbeans says

    damn, that’s terrifying. imagine one of those hits you in the ankle at the bottom of the hill and knocks you off your feet

  4. TGAP Dad says

    My first thought is wondering what in the heck is with the truckload of steel balls? Is this how steel gets transported for casting operations? And what’s with the Paul Bunyan duffel bag for transporting them???

  5. publicola says

    Years ago, when I was in my early twenties, a friend and I were driving on the expressway; he was driving. the weather was warm,so he had the driver’s-side window down. Suddenly, there was a crack, like a rock hit the window. I turned quickly at the sound and watched as the driver’s-side rear window spider-webbed. At the center of the window was a hole where an object had hit. Since there were no vehicles near us on either side of the highway, it had to have been a bullet. The really scary part was that the hole was at head height. If the shooter had fired a fraction of a second sooner, it would have hit my friend in the temple, and we both would have been killed.

  6. says

    Since there were no vehicles near us on either side of the highway, it had to have been a bullet.

    That’s some scary stuff right there.

    When I was a kid I read a story in Readers’ Digest – back before I realized it was all fiction and propaganda – about a cop who managed to figure out who had fired a shot that killed a woman driving her car. As the story went, it was a guy out in a boat who decided to plink a few floating bottles with a .308. Whether the story was true or not, it was memorable.

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    I wonder if the cargo (bags of steel balls) was tied down sufficiently well.

    As for accidents with firearms, there’s a court case currently in Finnlsh Lapland about a (very experienced) hunter accidentally shooting a mountain biker with his bird hunting rifle while hunting capercaillie. The biker was 75 m from the hunter who was trying to spot where the flying bird he saw had landed using his rifle scope and was preparing to shoot the capercaillie on the ground.

    What happened next is in dispute. However the mountain biker ended up being hit by a single bullet and dying. All sides consider it an accident, however the disputed matter is how negligent was the shooter, who is accused of aggravated involuntary homicide. The hunter claimed he didn’t see the biker, but as he was trying to use the set trigger of his gun (to make the actual trigger very light in order to increase accuracy), he saw movement which was not typical for a capercaillie and decided against shooting, but the gun discharged accidentally (this info is from newer Finnish-language news). I’m not a hunter, but I think he had no business having a finger on any trigger before seeing a bird on the ground.

  8. dangerousbeans says

    @Marcus Nope, no idea who that even is. I was just imagining getting 5kg of steel to the ankle, then being pummeled by more of the balls after you hit the ground.

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