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Non-Jury Trial Begins In Route 28 Detached Tire Death Case

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The trial for the driver of a truck whose wheel came off and killed another motorist last year began Tuesday morning.

Eric Gonzales-Huerta is facing charges of causing an accident with death and causing an accident without a driver's license or insurance, stemming from the Nov. 21 incident.

The non-jury trial got underway Tuesday afternoon

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Lazarra will decide if Gonzales-Huerta was negligent in the accident that caused the death of 75-year-old Robert Lofink, of Gibsonia, on Route 28 last November.

Huerta, who is described as an illegal alien from Mexico, was driving a pickup truck with a suspended license and no insurance.

The pickup truck was hauling a trailer when a wheel came off, bounced over the median and smashed into the windshield of Lofink's car.

Lofink was killed, but his wife, who riding in the backseat, was not injured.

Huerta came back to the scene looking for the wheel unaware that it had caused a fatal accident. He was arrested on a number of charges including operating unsafe equipment.

During the non-jury trial Tuesday, Huerta's attorney presented testimony from an expert mechanic who blamed the accident on improperly installed bearings in the wheel.

His attorney said the trailer was brought in for repairs, but the incorrect installation was never fixed.

However, the prosecution claims Huerta never should have been on the road because he had no insurance or license. A witness testified about the wheel wobbling before it came off the trailer.

The assistant district attorney says Huerta was told by a repair shop owner not to drive the pickup and trailer because the tires were bald, the brakes were in poor condition and he could go to jail.

During a preliminary hearing, a charge of leaving the scene of an accident was dropped, because the driver didn't know the incident had happened.

The judge will render a verdict on Friday morning.

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