4×4 Death Tragedy
Let’s discuss what went wrong and how we can stop people getting killed during 4wd recoveries. This subject comes up again and again but the message is slowly getting though. Like comment and share to help spread this message if you believe in it.
Rest in Peace Ryan, my prayers are with your family and friends who you’ve left behind. I hope that this video helps save the lives of others.
4×4 Death Tragedy
This morning, I wake up to learn that there’s been another four wheel driver killed in a four wheel drive recovery. And this was because they were recovering off the tow hitch of the four wheel drive. So in this video, I want to unpack some of the contributing factors.
And let’s see what we can learn from Ryans passing at the start of this video. I just want to pass my personal condolences to the family. I feel your pain. My brother passed away in a single vehicle, four wheel drive related accident some years ago.
And I know the pain you’re going through right now. There is a future ahead. But my prayers and my heart are with you in this very, very sad and difficult time. I spend a lot of time connecting with four wheel drive expert in recovery.
I’m talking about Robert Pepper, Casey Lofthouse. I’m talking about Justin Andres from factor55. And many, many others. People who are looking at and considering the recovery aspect of four wheel driving. And we talk about all sorts of different things and observe things like this.
And it’s generally well held belief that recovering of a towball or a tow hitch is an unacceptable practise because it can damage vehicles and people can be killed. And that’s what we’re seeing in this situation with Ryan’s passing.
Now, if you have mates who are new to the four wheel drive space or have maybe been doing it for years but haven’t got their head around this, the danger of this, can I encourage you to if you agree with the comments and content of this video. Hit that like button. Leave a comment down below and share the video so that we can help. All of us can be part of getting this message out there so that we can start saving some lives.
All right. Let’s get into the guts of this video and start talking about some of the things that I think have contributed to Ryan’s passing. So this morning, I’ve been in touch with Justin from Mojave County, 4×4 recovery there, a volunteer four wheel drive recovery group for their local four wheel drive area.
And they were asked to be involved in the post tragedy recovery by identifying who was responsible for that recovery in that situation. Now, Justin has given me permission to use the images that you see in this video. So obviously, I don’t have all of the information.
I wasn’t there, but I do have a lot of experience in four wheel drive recovery and I spend a lot of time thinking about it and talking to experts and discussing concepts and principles on, on a, on a range of different elements to do with recoveries and four wheel driving.
So I think what I have to say is probably well worth listening to, but obviously we can disagree with each other and have a civil discussion about the principles. At the end of the day, I want to learn and I want to be able to bring what I’ve learnt to the table so that we can discuss it and get out there and wheel well. So let’s start talking about the hitch that was used in this recovery. So one of the things I’ve been observing and learning and discussing over the last period of time is to do with the comment You should never recover of a towball.
Now I stand by that comment. I believe that comment is correct. And I’ve done content and videos about that. But let me unpack that a little bit further for you. The thinking around that comment is do not recover off a towball.
There’s multiple different towballs out there in the community and America and the UK. We all have different types. That’s one for my caravan. This is what I use here in Australia for towing a little trailer around. It’s a 50 millimetre ball.
When we make the comment do not recover off the towball, it’s probably not the best way to say it because what we’re really getting at is if we don’t recover off the towball, you’re not recovering off the hitch, which is where we see a lot of failures, we see a lot of failures here.
And then in this situation, that’s where the failure points been. And I’ll get to that in a moment. So when we say don’t recover off the towball, there’s issues there. Firstly, your strap, when it’s hooked to a towball, you can’t tell me that looks like a hook on a crane, can you?
And it’s not closed loop. Now, that’s a whole subject we would need to unpack but unpack for you. But it’s not a good scenario to hook like that. Imagine if you’re recovering in this situation. It’s easy for that to come off.
And also, it’s what we call single shear in this situation. So the towball can actually come off here. It has happened. And yes, we’ve all seen Ronnie Darlls video trying to bust a towball myth. And, you know, he had to do it.
He had to cut the towball to get it to fail. But there have been recorded instances in videos done where I was saying and stuff of towballs that are failed right here. So it does happen, but the majority of the times we see it happen back here on the hitch and you’ll notice that this hitch is different.
to this it. And this comes back to an engineering principle that’s been brought to bear. See how this hitch is welded at an angle to It’s receiver tube, whereas this is straight up and down. This is going to start a tearing moment.
There’s a a stress load that can happen at this point here. And if the weld starts to fail, then it will tear away from the hitch material. And so by adding the design, making the design like this, we add a lot more weld and we reduce that stress load down here in the root of the weld.
But on this one here, you can see that it’s more of a 90 degree scenario. And so in a in a towing application, this is just fine because. Well, we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s just stay on this weld stress rise our point here.
So. In this coupling. And this is why I use this hitch. There’s very little distance from here to the centreline of the ball. When the trailer is hooked on here, it’s effectively pulling in a centreline through the hitch.
So it’s really quite a strong design. Now, the hitch that was in this recovery and you’ll see an image on the screen now it’s what they call a drop hitch. And it’s about, I believe it was about eight inches long.
So I’ve set up this to be eight inches. To give you an indication of where the towball on this hitch would have been, it would have been down here. So when they’re doing this recovery, there’s a lot of leverage being put up here onto the root of the weld where that stress riser is.
There you can see that the coupling has got that that gusset up in here. Great. That helps spread the load in the hitch. But you can see at the end of that gusset, that’s where the stress rise has been the greatest, and it’s torn from that point.
Now, the comments often made to me I tow I’ll use American language 14,000 lb trailer for us Australians that’s about a 7000 kilo trailer. That’s a lot of weight to have behind a vehicle. That’s fine. The difference is this, that when we’re towing, we’re only introducing the tractive force into that towball.
What do I mean by tractive force? That’s the amount of traction your tyres have on the road. And despite what you might think, well, I’m pulling 14,000 lb, you’re doing it slowly and generating the force into that trailer over a period of time.
And I’m actually going to do a video shortly with my mate Robert Pepper, and we’re going to actually measure this tractive force element. But the vehicle actually doesn’t produce a huge amount of force into this compared to what we can generate when we do a kinetic recovery.
Alright, so this is the next point I want to raise. There’s two types of recovery that we can do. Now they look exactly the same, but they are performed very differently. When I say exactly the same, you use the exact same equipment.
You could use this recovery rope here or you could use a strap, a connected snatch strap, but one we call a tow recovery and one we call a kinetic recovery. Two very different based. One is really, really safe and one is not so safe but it can be performed safely.
A kinetic recovery can be performed safely, but often they’re not. Now. When we do a tow recovery, which is what when I was when I was reading the information on this situation, the the driver of the vehicle doing the recovery, and that he he started out doing a tow recovery.
Very good. That’s the way he should do it. And he’s started to load up and he’s just using his tractive force to try and pull the vehicle out. And he got nowhere. So then without changing the set up of his vehicle, he stepped over into kinetic recovery.
And the difference is he took a run up. So he backed the vehicle up, put some slack in the line, and then took a short run up to generate some extra force and perform a kinetic recovery. To my understanding, though, he wasn’t using a recovery rope and he wasn’t using a kinetic snatch strap.
He was using a normal strap a bit like this one. This isn’t a snatch strap. I don’t own any snatch straps. This is just a tree trunk protector, but this is just a strap that does not stretch.
Okay. So effectively, he was using something like this with no stretch in it. So the moment that went tight, he shock loaded all of his recovery equipment. Now, without getting too deep and technical. When you do a kinetic recovery, you have that moment where things stretch.
So all of the energy that the vehicle has built up is now introduced into the recovery rope or the snatch strap, and it stretches. So there’s a period of time where all of the energy is put into the rope before it recovers out the vehicle.
Now, in this situation, because he didn’t have a stretchable strap there, all of the energy was put into the strap in a instant. And the loads Happening down here were huge. Obviously way too much for the hitch.
You see, when you do a snatch recovery or a kinetic recovery, you generate energy. You basically charge up your vehicle and then when you want to transfer the energy that you’re charged vehicle has now generated. You want to transfer that energy into the strap and then from the strap into the bogged vehicle.
And if you don’t have a stretchable strap in there, that’s where things can go wrong. also you’ll hear people say you never recover with a chain. You can do a tow recovery with a chain. You never do a kinetic recovery with a chain.
I hope that’s helped you understand a little bit of the difference between the different types of straps, the way we should use them, and why that hitch failed the way it did. Yeah. So when we move forward, we hear people saying, do not recover off the towball.
The language we’re using there is to communicate this whole device here. Don’t recover off one of these. Don’t recover off one of these. It’s just not worth it. Because the solution is so easy. It is so easy to do it.
So much safer. So let’s talk about the solutions. This is a hitch receiver and this is a soft shackle. It’s an excellent way to connect to the rear of a four wheel drive. So to use it, we simply slide the hitch receiver in there.
We take our hitch pin and we slide it through the hitch reciever hitch pin and job done that’s attached. And companies like Factor55 are creating these products. They’re putting an extensive amount of money into testing and making sure that this is a good, safe recovery point for the four wheel drive.
Now, within all of this, and again, this could be a whole other video, but within all of this, we are attaching it to a draw bar system on the rear of the four wheel drive. Now, here in Australia, we have to have all of these draw bar systems engineered and rated.
So they do have some engineering standards in there and they are over engineered. Here’s the key point. If you have a well-designed, correctly fitted recovery or tow hitch on the rear of the four wheel drive, we’re not seeing them fail in recoveries, assuming that the recoveries are being performed correctly.
They have been known to fail when they’re a light duty hitch that’s being used in a heavy duty environment or one that’s been used around salt a lot, and these corroded bolts or rusty chassis and stuff like that, that’s outside of the norm.
And that comes back to the owner operator making sure that their equipment is in good order. But this vehicle here hasn’t got any of those problems. Also hitches in excellent order, and most vehicles out there will be in that situation.
And so that makes a really nice recovery point that is engineered. And we I think it’s safe to say we know it’s going to be a good, safe recovery point. So here’s the question, because I get this in the comments on my videos is I’ve been doing towball recoveries off hitches like this for years, and it’s perfectly safe. Well, I think the proof is in the pudding. And I think Ryan and his family would disagree with you. Just my thoughts on that. But here’s the thing. How hard is it to undo that pin and slide that in?
And then we have the job done safe, no issues, no risk. So I’ll leave that with you. Look, if you disagree with me, that’s okay. Let’s have a civil discussion about it in the comments down below. And yeah, just comment.
I’m interested to Have the conversation. I don’t know everything I want to learn and I’m always looking to update my content and if I can see a valid reason to change my methodology. So let’s move on to some of the other things I want to talk about.
So I want to give you a tool now to use when you’re in a recovery situation. And this was developed by some friends of mine, John and Karl and from getabout four wheel drive training here in Australia.
Great guys do great work across the world, training people in four wheel drive recoveries. So this is called the hierarchy of recovery and it’s as simple as this. When you go out for wheel driving and you get bogged.
This is where you start: is my four wheel drive in four wheel drive. Have I let some air out of my tyres to increase the amount of traction that my vehicle can have? If it’s yes to all of those things.
The next thing we’re going to do is get out the shovel and release some load from the vehicle. So dig out the tyres, dig out underneath the chassis and so on and so forth. And that may be enough for you to get out of the bogging situation.
As you can see in this tragic situation that hasn’t been done and that would have reduced the recovery load. Now, if you’ve done the shovelling, which was always going to be a good thing to get done, the next thing you’re going to use is use some rocks.
Some sticks. You’re going to use some traction boards to give you traction under the tyres and the wheels. You might get your jack and jack the car up and put some sticks or boards under the tyres to get the vehicle moving forward if you’re still bogged.
We now step up to the next level, which is where we get another vehicle involved and we’re going to do the tow recovery. That’s right. That is the one where we don’t accelerate. We drive the vehicle out until a strap, a chain or a recovery rope is taught.
And then we try to drive off and pull the vehicle out of the bogging situation. Now, you might not be thinking, Matthew, you just said use a chain in a tow recovery. A chain is fine because you’re not shocked loading anything.
You’re just pulling. The next thing we’re going to use if that doesn’t work, is we will winch. We can do a single line winch. We can do double line, winch we can do winch redirections. There’s multiple ways we can use a winch to.
However, a bogged vehicle. And for me, that’s about by the time I get to winch, I’ve pretty much got any vehicle out of any bogging situation. And then the last method that we would use if a winching situation has failed is a kinetic recovery.
And that’s where we’re going to use something like this recovery rope here from Factor55, and we’re going to generate that kinetic energy and pull the vehicle out. Now, here’s the the big concern with kinetic energies. Everything up to this point has been controlled.
Even when you’re winching, you can watch the winch rope coming in. And if something’s going wrong in the recovery, you stop winching. You don’t overload in a winching situation, as in putting too much energy because the winch just runs out of power.
So it’s a lot safer method. Once we get to a kinetic recovery, we have an uncontrolled energy release. Let’s think about it like this. This vehicle’s bogged and it needs 1000 kilograms of force or 1,000 lb of force. It doesn’t really matter for it to get out of that bog situation.
So what I need to do is with my F-250 put 1001 kilograms or pounds of force into this vehicle, and this vehicle will be recovered because I only need 1 lb more force to overcome the bogging situation. You understand the principle I’m getting at.
You don’t need much more. You only need a tiny amount more force than the bogging situation requires and you’ll have the vehicle out. once, We go into a kinetic recovery, though. We have that uncontrolled energy. We don’t actually know how much force we’re putting into the recovery because there’s a principle and I want to point you to a video link down below by Robert Pepper, Snatch / KERR safety – one tip to make it safer and he explains the amount of force that you can generate with your four wheel drive when you do a kinetic recovery. And the numbers are terrifying. Think of it like this if you are at four kilometres per hour.
And you generate X amount of force at four kilometres an hour, then you increase your speed to eight kilometres an hour. You don’t now have double the amount of force being applied. You have four times the amount of force being generated by that vehicle.
It’s huge. So it’s a scale that just gets larger and larger and the numbers get terrifying with the amount of force you can generate with your vehicle in a kinetic recovery. And so that’s why a kinetic recovery is potentially the most dangerous recovery method out there.
Saying all of that, they can be performed safely and they’re being performed all the time perfectly safely. But that’s where we are seeing the bad failures in the four wheel drive community. I hope this video has been inspiring to you.
I hope it brings a small level of healing to the family. And I hope that you would learn from this and that you would share it around so that we can get the message out there.
Stay safe on the trails.
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4×4 death tragedy