HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A 21-year-old father of a 4-month-old girl has been identified as the person killed when a tire flew into the windshield of an SUV on the Katy Freeway on Thursday night.
Family members told ABC13 that Clayton Vaughn was the young man who died. His girlfriend, who was the driver, is expected to be OK.
The crash happened at about 8:30 p.m. along the westbound lanes of the Katy Freeway near Blalock. A tire bounced onto the freeway's westbound lanes, hitting a Kia SUV on the Katy Tollway.
A photo from the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office shows the SUV's windshield demolished.
The driver never stopped, leaving many questions about how this happened.
According to the latest information from authorities, a truck with a landscaping-style trailer attached to it was traveling eastbound on the freeway when the tire flew off the trailer.
At first, deputies with the constable's office believed the tire came from an 18-wheeler but then spoke to more witnesses.
ABC13 also talked to one of the witnesses who saw the terrifying ordeal unfold.
Randrell Alexander said she saw the tire fly off the trailer of a black truck, which did not have a license plate. According to Alexander, the tire was bouncing around before another truck made contact with it.
It rolled into the HOV lane and a white F-150 pickup hit it when it bounced and went over the barrier, Alexander said.
"It went straight into the windshield like 'Boom!' I saw it. I saw glass and I saw the hood pop up and the car started spinning," Alexander recalled.
She said it happened so fast, but at one point, she was side by side with the driver of the truck, which the tire fell from.
"I know he saw it out of his rear-view (mirror), because he let his window down," Alexander said. "It happened so fast, but by the time we got side by side, it was like he was going to stop. But I'm sure he saw what I saw, and he started driving slow."
According to the constable's office, the driver could be charged with failure to stop and render aid, if found. However, the evidence will be presented to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which will ultimately decide whether to charge the driver.
Vaughn's uncle, Evan Richard, told ABC13 the family hopes more witnesses come forward in the hope of getting more answers.
"I'm not here to place judgment," Richard said. "Things happen, but obviously, negligence of some sort played a role in this. He was a passenger in a vehicle struck by an oncoming tire. What are the chances of something like this happening? (You should) know, you are endangering lives around you, and I can't bring him back. But I can get the message out that you can do better. The city can do better."
Richard said his nephew's life was taken too short before he got a chance to even watch his daughter grow up. But Vaughn, Richard added, will be remembered for the loving person he was and cherished by many.
"He was a big old teddy bear," Richard said. "He was a young 21-year-old trying to find himself in this hectic world. He just went to church Sunday."
There may also be witness video, officials said, which they are reviewing.
The family created a GoFundMe to help raise his 4-month-old daughter and funeral expenses.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to avoid road debris, AAA shares these tips:
- Continuously scan the road in front of you. Don't be distracted.
- Be sure you're also looking at the opposite lanes of traffic.
- Don't tailgate and watch your speed. This can help you maneuver and avoid debris.
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