July 31, 2022 | Categories: ,

Breaking down the deadly AZ incident

Today we’d like to post some information on the tragic story floating around the internet regarding the tow ball failure that killed a father, and forever changed a family in Arizona. The original story will be posted at the bottom.

The Woods family was out enjoying the back roads in their ford Super Duty when they got stuck. Judging by the looks of it they are what we call “framed out” in the mud. What that means is you’re not just stuck on the top few inches (think ice where you’re still on top and can’t move), but rather fell through that top crust and the mud is now entangled on EVERYTHING underneath the vehicle. Exhaust, diffs, suspension, transmission, shocks, and the frame. This extra grip on everything adds massive amounts of load to the “stuck force.”

Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery volunteers are extensively trained by an I4WDTA certified trainer. I4WDTA stands for “International four wheel drive trainer’s association.” We evaluate a situation, calculate the estimated loads, add on at least a 10% safety factor, and form a safe plan to recover vehicles. Honestly, we’ve been made fun of numerous times for how slow and over-rigged we tend to do things, but slow and over-rigged is what brings EVERYONE HOME SAFE.

2 inch tow balls have a rating basically between 3500 pounds up to 12,000 pounds. But that is a no-shock flat ground rating where the forces are simply starting and stopping a trailer with functional tires. 2 5/16 inch tow balls have ratings from about 6000 pounds up to 30,000. But again, that’s ideal flat no-resistance trailer towing. When you introduce shock loads into a tow ball, time and time again they have had deadly consequences. The shank on that ball just can’t handle the stress and shock of being yanked on over and over like that.

Let’s evaluate the Super Duty stuck force related to this story. We’re going to use the safe-xtract app for android, which is extremely accurate in calculating recovery forces. There is a tonneau cover on the bed, so let’s assume it’s a bit loaded down. 9000 pounds for the sake of the story. It’s nose down in the mud just a little bit, and appears to have a slight driver’s side lean. It’s a single rear wheel, and all 4 are buried in the mud. This was a non-winch recovery using straps attached to another truck that we’ll say weighs 8950 pounds. This is estimated to be a 18,750 pound load (or stuck force) to break that suction and pull the truck out of the mud. This is right at the top of the limit for safe “kinetic” recovery as you’d have to get up to 5 MPH to get the proper force applied to the truck. (You should NEVER exceed 5 MPH on a kinetic recovery. If you’ve ever snapped a rubber band, think what a 1.5 inch diameter 30 foot rubber band with 30,000+ pounds of energy can do.) 18,750 pounds quickly exceeds the rating of a tow ball, and very quickly exceeds the thin walls of a receiver hitch, especially a drop receiver hitch where there are some exponential force multipliers at play on an 8 inch drop hitch. The safest way to recover this truck would have been a strap bridal attached to both front recovery points, on a 2:1 winch line back to a recovering truck with at least a 10,000 pound winch, preferably a 12,000 pound winch. This recovering truck would likely also need an anchor vehicle to prevent it from sliding forward.

We’ve attached some example pictures of member vehicles stuck for fun to practice recovery, as well as missions where the forces quickly exceed 30,000 pounds. Even light weight vehicles like jeeps at a mere 5000 pound curb weigh can quickly triple/quadruple when framed out! The White Ram 2500 nose down in the mud very quickly exceeded 25,000 pounds of force to break that suction and required two pulling vehicles both anchored with multiple other vehicles behind. The red power wagon (member) hung up in the icy crusty sugar snow exceeded 18,000 pounds of force. The high centered Toyota required two vehicles to pull it back onto the road, of which one was running 2:1 reduction for an estimated total of 20,000 pounds. So, as you can see, vehicles can very VERY quickly get to dangerous recovery loads in relatively simple situations. YOU SHOULD NEVER PULL ON A TOW BALL, EVEN THE FIXED WELDED 3 HEAD TOW BALLS. You are playing with your life and the lives of those around you.
Whenever you are recovering a vehicle, you need to have HUGE safety areas too. Even we have had gear fail unexpectedly even though we were operating within the limits of the gear, and well within the failure safety margins of the gear. Stay clear!! It’s the only way to prevent line or gear from taking out a knee, or smacking you in the head.

Use rated recovery gear at all times! If pulling on/from a trailer hitch receiver, please use the proper insert designed for shackles! Factor 55 makes extremely strong rated recover points for tow receivers.

Seek proper training to know how to use that gear safely, and how to calculate your stuck force!
If you’re ever being recovered by a passer by and they want to use a chain and a tow ball, PLEASE DECLINE THEIR HELP! Wait for the proper gear! Call us if needed! We’ll gladly come to your aid!
Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time. Original story posted below.

Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery
We Recover the Rockies!

Tuesday July 26th 2022,
It was a typical Monsoon day in Small town Kingman, AZ. The undeveloped Baron wasteland where developers have dumped their excess dirt has created obstacles for the community to enjoy year round, anytime it rains the fields turn into a mud infested swampy play ground for all the locals to flock to in their 4×4’s quads and side by sides. But nobody could’ve seen what Tragedy would happen on that Cloudy wet afternoon in the high desert.

The Woods family Jennifer and Ryan were out in their Ford Super Duty with their kids in the back seat playing in the mud, enjoying the thrill of sliding sideways spinning the tires, splashing through puddles, all while navigating through years of man made tracks filled with deep mud holes that would challenge the most capable of vehicles. Well soon into the adventure Ryan came across a mudhole that sunk his 4 ton beast. Even with a rear locker and 4×4 he was swamped, unable to budge the truck with all 4 tires spinning he was stuck with no way of getting out without a tow, so like every other time he’s gotten stuck he called upon a good friend he’s known for 20 years. This friend a known off roader, racer, and mechanic came out in his 4×4 hoping for just a quick pull out of the mud so he could get back to his Jacuzzi waiting for him at home.

With minimal recovery gear with him and years of off roading experience he like many other people across the world, worked with what he had on hand. A chain stretched across both factory front recovery points a 3” static HD tow strap and a drop down hitch with a 2” ball connected to the rear of his 4WD truck. The first few attempts failed with one of the chains failing to be strong enough and broke after the second pull. After that the strap was connected directly to one front tow point. After a few light tugs the truck wasn’t budging. Knowing more force was needed to pluck this 9,000lb truck out of the mud he backed up a few feet to get a better start. That turned out to be too much stress for the ball hitch when the extra tension was created by the force of the pull it ripped the drop down portion of the hitch off of the truck, sending it and the strap directly towards Ryans truck smashing through the windshield, directly where Ryan was in the Driver seat. The force was so great it ripped through the windshield and bent the steering wheel before ultimately striking Ryan in the face, ending his life. With his family in the car, an afternoon full of fun and excitement turned into a traumatizing experience, this family will never be the same. Ryan was a loving Husband of 23 years with his wife Jennifer and he leaves behind 3 kids Darren Woods 27, Madison Woods 13, and Londyn Woods 10. And also friendship of 20 years now with the reality he lost his friend from the this freak accident. Ryan served everyone he came in to contact with, even strangers, he loved deeply and forgave quickly his Legacy will not be forgotten and live on with his children.

RIP Ryan Robert Woods 7-7-1979 7-26-2022

Whenever going out off roading it’s inevitable that someone can get stuck. Use the PROPER recovery gear and NEVER USE A TOW BALL! Also do not use chains or straps that are not designed to be yanked. Soft shackles, KINETIC recovery ropes, Synthetic winch lines, and Safety blankets help minimize risk and when rigged properly prevent damage or injury with the correct safety precautions in place. Proper recovery gear has weight ratings listed on the tags. Do not exceed those weight ratings. I hope this post can educate the public that Tow balls are not for recoveries and people can seriously get hurt and even Killed!

Would also like to thank our first responders for the quick response Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Northern Arizona Fire District Adan Towing

Please Share!!!!!!!!!! RIP Ryan

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