GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A 21-year-old college student is dead after a tragic accident Tuesday at a South Mississippi rest stop.
Margaret Maurer, a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, was traveling eastbound on I-10 with friends when the group stopped for a restroom break at a rest stop in Jackson County, just west of the Pascagoula River Bridge.
According to Gautier Police, Margaret and her two friends were about to get back into their vehicle when two tires on an 18-wheeler broke free from the rig, which was traveling westbound at the time. The dual-wheels rolled through the eastbound lanes and into the rest stop on the south side of the interstate, striking Margaret.
The wheels also hit the car Margaret was traveling in, as well as another vehicle parked nearby, said authorities.
“Margaret Kathleen Nelson Maurer was an extraordinary young woman, and she brought a lot of joy to a lot of people through a lot of different ways,” said her mom, Tracy Nelson Maurer.
According to the coroner, Margaret was from Forest Lake, MN, which is about 30 miles northeast of St. Paul. Police tell us she and her friends were not originally from the Mississippi Gulf Coast or New Orleans.
Margaret’s family is grieving her loss.
“She’s our precious daughter, and we’re just heartbroken. No words for it,” Tracy said.
Capt. Casey Baxter with Gautier Police Department said the dual-wheels broke off the assembly as the driver came off the long Pascagoula River bridge. From the point of breaking off, the tires traveled approximately 850-875 feet. The wheels, which were still together as one unit, rolled westbound at an angle, heading southwest towards the rest stop.
Video from another citizen in the area shows the wheels crossing the grassy area of the rest stop, said Capt. Baxter. After striking the victim, the dual-wheel went another 100-150 feet down an embankment.
Police have talked to the driver of the 18-wheeler, who apparently realized he lost the wheels, but didn’t know what happened. The driver who was going west, turned around, and was driving east when he saw the first responders at the rest stop. Police say he pulled over just past the bridge. He was not detained.
The dual-wheels are estimated to weigh around 1,000 pounds. The wheels were so heavy that two men could not push them on the ramp of the wrecker, having to use a cable to pull it up.
Authorities confirm the truck belongs to Dana Transport from New Jersey.
Margaret will be missed by friends and family.
“She was well loved by her friends and especially her little brother. They were just 11-and-a-half months apart, so they’ve never known the world without each other,” said Tracy.
The accident remains under investigation.