By on July 16, 2017

u-body-crash-semi

A hulking piece of scrap metal was hurled from a Florida overpass by a flipped semi over the weekend, nearly crushing the driver of a second-generation U-body minivan. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the truck loaded with scrap was traveling westbound on Interstate 4 on Saturday morning when its driver lost control of the vehicle and struck the overpass guardrail. It tipped over, spilling its contents onto the street below.

A large pipe impacted roof of the minivan’s driver side but its operator, 36-year-old Jesus Armando Escobar, managed to survive — sustaining only minor injuries. 

u-body-crash-semi

Escobar’s wife, Aricelli, told ABC News in an interview that her husband is “blessed to be alive.”

She called he husband’s survival a miracle, which is a fairly apt description considering the nature of the accident. General Motors was heavily criticized for the poor structural integrity of its U-body vans. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even went so far as to call the 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport “structurally unsound” and the worst performing vehicle of that year. In frontal crash testing a major collapse of the occupant compartment left little survival space for the driver.

In fact, the death-from-above precision strike inflicted upon Escobar’s vehicle may have been just as risky as any head-on collision he could have incurred under “more normal” circumstances.

The driver of the overturned semi-truck, 33-year-old Antonio Santiago Wharton, only endured minor injuries and was issued a citation for careless driving.

 

[Image: Florida Highway Patrol]

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42 Comments on “Florida Driver Survives Precision Strike in Structurally Cursed U-Body Minivan...”


  • avatar
    scott25

    Jesus Is Alive.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    A rare survivable impact for this vehicle.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In other news Honda confirmed the 11th known death from Takata airbags this week, but hey, old habits die hard, we have to spin this for the B&B.

    (no love for the safety record on my part of the GM U-body of this era, but a chunk of steel that large flying through the air at that velocity would crush the bejesus of basically any passenger vehicle on the road, new, old, or otherwise – the frontal and side impact qualities of any vehicle would be inconsequential to the story)

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yep, this article is nothing but proof that TTAC is bought and paid for by Honda. Or Ford. Or whichever automaker it is this week that is supposedly shown unfair bias, all because they have the audacity to build decent vehicles that drive well amongst their peers.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        There is a stunning number of these U-bodies, which sold in low volumes compared to peers still on the road. As long as you stay up on coolant changes they just keep going.

        Now Honda Odyssey minivans of the same era (GM U-Body of this style are 97 to 05) with V6 and the 5-speed on the other hand…

        But please, do go on.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          The only reason my 02 Ody is on the road is because I replaced the transmission.

          This was in late 09, with 73K miles of my wife tooling around town with the kids.

          That vaunted Honda goodwill customer service that was replacing 10 transmissions a week at my dealer BEFORE the economy crashed? Yeah, Honda ditched that immediately AFTER the economy crashed, and told me to go pound sand–they weren’t interested in falling on their sword for MY transmission.

          Never mind that I was a 30 year customer of that dealership, with a stack of service invoices two feet tall. Never mind that I sent my family members to buy Hondas from that same dealership.

          It wasn’t the dealership’s fault; they apologized for the situation and even warned me before they got American Honda involved, “they won’t do anything. They stopped all that. You won’t get anywhere.”

          I have bought new cars since, but none of them Hondas. I am looking at finally replacing that rusting Ody, but it’ll be either Toyota (obvious choice) or, surprisingly, Kia. I figure, how bad can a Kia be? It CAN’T be worse than what Honda has foisted onto the world.

          In all this time, all I’ve heard from people who own Hondas beyond a lease/warranty period is that transmissions continue to be junk, and–even worse–now they’ve screwed up the V6 engines with VCM. A co-worker of mine made Honda buy his Accord back because of that, several years ago. It was his first Honda, and his last.

          Kia has scared American Honda to death over the last 15 years–and rightfully so. But it’s not necessarily because Kia has become a strong engineering and design company (although I like the designs). It’s because Honda has become like what Kia was 15 years ago.

          Honda’s Japanese management needs to hear this and know this and understand this. I don’t know that they are. I have to believe that they’re hearing “all is well” from the American management captain of the Titanic as the stern is falling backwards into the water.

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            If my experience is anything like the average, at 120k I’m quite happy with my ’08 Kida Sedona. Solid, reliable, and comfortable on long trips (main reason for buying).

            Unfortunately, I won’t be considering a third (current) generation Sedona as a replacement, despite liking the vehicle quite a lot. Reason? You can’t remove the second row of seats or console between the front row. As I use the van for reenactment and racetrack camping/hauling, the inability to turn the back into a cargo area kills it.

            Damn. I like their product and we have a good local dealer.

          • 0 avatar

            Sounds a bit similar to my mother’s experience with a 2012 CR-V. There is a known defect with the cam actuator for the variable timing. In this case it manifested in a load grinding/rasping noise every time she started the engine. Being a real estate agent it was a source of some embarrassment for her, but Honda redesigned it for the newer models, and decided at one point to just stop fixing the older ones. She made enough of a stink to get it fixed, but it was a real hassle.

    • 0 avatar

      May be 11 people died in their Hondas but it is still a Honda. Structurally safe Honda I must add. And super reliable. That Honda will run without issues another 200K miles, after they replace airbag if course, hopefully with non-Tokata one.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        No, it won’t. It’s a piece of crap. Because it’s a *modern* Honda. It’s not a Honda from the mid 80s to mid 90s.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          Honda haters like to point out mid 80’s and 90’s mumbo jumbo. But up here in the midwest, those older honda’s rusted away. I see plenty of newer Accords with 200,000 + miles without rust whether it’s a 2000, 2005, etc. I’ve seen a few with 400k. That 2.4 motor is pretty tough. I am not a fan of the 2008-2010 model accord though. The 2011 at least improved braking issues, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            The 2008-2012 was the low point of the Accord, by any stretch! Cheap as cheap could be inside, VCM problems under the hood, and overall, a wallowing, overweight mess!

      • 0 avatar
        Xanderain

        Two of my close friends have died in a Honda. One a front impact with a bus at about 40 mph, and another in a side impact. I’d never ride in one of those things. Ever.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Slow click-bait Sunday as no reason to watch GM for it’s death and Tim and Chris runout of Honda fodder.

      The actual impact was at the end of the vehicle as it looks like the end hit and then it rolled forward.

      The vehicle is a Buick Terraza and searching was only made from 2005-2007 with iihs crash results the same as the Honda Odyessey but with Poor seats/neck vs marginal for the Honda.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      TTAC gets the Fake News crown of the day!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You echo my thoughts, APaGttH.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I logged in to end up saying the same thing as 28; it would barely matter who’s vehicle was under that pipe, the end result would be the same. No stock vehicle has pillar/roof construction strong enough to ignore that much weight and velocity.

      The real story is that there was far less mayhem on the road than could have taken place. Imagine if that would have been a school or church bus or some other similar vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        If it is a 2005 or later Buick Terraza, which the large round badge seems to suggest, there are some major inconsistencies (rear bumper, taillights, wheels, and some missing trim pieces). Since it’s easier to slap on a different badge than numerous pieces of bodywork, I’m not sold on this being a genuine Terraza.

        As for Takata outrage and Honda hate, it seems like the comment section has that more than covered right now.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          If this had happened to another brand of minivan, would this get coverage on this site? This seems to be the issue, at least with some of the commentariat.

          Now that I’m able to see this on a bigger screen, that really looks like a ’97 to ’04 Trans Sport/Montana, not a Terraza. I’m not quite sure what the round thing is on the tailgate, but GM doesn’t make their divisional logos as big as that.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “If this had happened to another brand of minivan, would this get coverage on this site?”

            No. The irony of someone surviving such a catastrophic incident in a vehicle that folded like tinfoil in standardized testing IS the whole point of this article.

            We all know that the driver survived only by the freak chance of his head not being under that pipe, and that no other vehicle would have done any better.

            The irritated reaction of some commenters on this article is amusing.

          • 0 avatar
            ppxhbqt

            WFTV ID’d it as a Pontiac and if you watch the linked video from ABC, you can clearly see the Montana badge near the end.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Back in the late aughts, there were a high number of vehicles crushed by steel coils which broke loose from trucks on Toledo, OH-area freeways.

        Not many survivors like this!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Whew ~ soiled shorts moment there .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Best thing to come out of it: one less pile of rolling garbage on the roads. It’ll be in the next scrap-hauling truck.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Certainly not the best engineered vehicles around, but I wouldn’t put it down like that. All flavors of old discarded minivans make affordable transportation possible for lower-income folks of all sorts of walks of life, mainly 1st generation hispanic and poorer white folks in my experience. The 3.4/4spd auto isn’t entirely bomb-proof, but they’re not horrible (I’d take one over a Windstar 3.8/AX4S for the example). Bodies rot, but so does everything else in that era. Ultimately I think the 3.3OHV/Ultradrive Caravan or Villager/Quest with the VG30/Jatco are probably the safest bets in the class, although at this age condition and upkeep would trump any other inherent design factors.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        gtemnykh

        Its Florida. Car bodies don’t rot. But every gasket, seal, and elastomeric suspension bit will rot or leak. When I move there permanently, I’m thinking about adding a mini split AC to the garage. No way I’d do that in more northerly locations.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        Agree, my mother-in-law swears by her Olds Silouette, 2002?, the last generation they made it. Only now has a bit of fender rust, never has seen the garage, interior has held up well, given that none of the plastics have had a drop of armor-all.
        Its driven in K.C. winters/salt.Original drivetrain, I don’t know mileage.
        We’re trying to convince to buy a car with more airbags as she does transport the grandkids.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yup , that old van has an appointment with the “crusher”… Won’t take long to finish the job.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    A self-driving truck could have prevented this, unless it’s AI turns the truck and scrap iron cargo into a man killing cyborg.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Good thing it was not the Chevrolet Venture Warner Brothers edition. “That’s all folks……

  • avatar
    mason

    Escobar – Now there’s a name that could potentially render a fella guilty by association…

  • avatar

    And this is why I have life insurance…..a few years back, a local dentist was taking his kids on a weekend to some kid activity. A tree fell on his car. Crushed the front of the car, killing him, but leaving the children unharmed in their child seats.

  • avatar
    geo

    A beloved family friend lost his life after being struck head-on by an first-gen Ford Explorer. He was driving a 1999 Venture. His family also sustained serious, long-term injuries. The Explorer driver, of course, wasn’t scratched.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The OP apparently is low on understanding of impact forces. What the U body minivan structure has to do with anything is irrelevant, but what the heck, lets get a dig in at it anyway.

    May I suggest a headline for further harty-har-hars?

    “Man chokes to death on pancakes in restaurant with 1995 model gas oven”

    Take it, it’s free.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    As lucky as the man driving the minivan was, the a-hole driving the tractor trailer was almost as lucky…that he doesn’t have the death of a fellow human being on his hands as a result of driving…like an a-hole.


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