Yurien Chavez Bello
Photo: Peach County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Peach County Sheriff's Office

Mother killed when tire falls off 18-wheeler, hits car on I-75; driver charged

A Middle Georgia woman was killed in front of her parents and young child when a tire fell off a tractor-trailer on I-75 and crashed through her windshield, authorities said.

Jennifer Thomas, 36, of Gray, died Sunday afternoon while driving south through Peach County, Sheriff Terry Deese told AJC.com.

Two tires fell off the rear axle of an 18-wheeler heading north, and one of them bounced across the interstate, over a 4-foot median and into Thomas’ car as it traveled the opposite direction, Deese said.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 31-year-old Miami resident Yurien Chavez Bello, was arrested Tuesday on charges of second-degree vehicular homicide, driving on defective tires and unsafe vehicle or equipment, booking records show. He remained at the Peach County jail Wednesday evening, the sheriff said.

Thomas’ parents and child were not injured in the wreck. The tire wasn’t found until the next day when deputies located it about 50 yards into the woods near the interstate.

Deese called the wreck a “freak accident” and said he’s only seen an incident like that one other time in his nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience. 

In the 1980s, a truck tire crashed through the back windshield of a deputy’s patrol car as he helped a stranded motorist on the side of the interstate, Deese said. Nobody was hurt in that case. 

“I don’t think it could be more freakish,” he said. “What are the odds of this lady being in that exact spot at the exact time a 360-pound tire basically falls out of the sky?” 

Bello’s first-appearance hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning. 

In other news: 

Sources told Channel 2's Tom Jones Elite Scholars Academy that eleventh-grader Imani Bell was running outdoors uphill when she was overcome by heat. Tuesday tied the record for the hottest day on that date in history.

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