A man heading to work on Interstate 35W in south Minneapolis died Friday morning when two wheels flew off a garbage truck headed southbound on the highway.
One of the wheels crossed the median and hit a pickup driven by Jerry Ander, 56, of Burnsville, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
The wreck near 46th Street tied up traffic in both directions during the morning commute and for hours afterward.
According to a State Patrol report, a Waste Management Inc. truck was southbound on the freeway about 6:25 a.m. when a set of wheels on the left side of the truck came loose. One of the tires bounced over the concrete median wall and struck the top of Ander's Dodge pickup in the northbound lanes.
"It's tragic," said Lt. Mark Peterson said. "Wrong place at the wrong time."
The driver of the garbage truck was identified as Floyd Brunson, 42, of Minneapolis.
A Waste Management spokeswoman said in a statement that the driver of the truck had been employed by the company for 11 years. The truck he was driving is called a rear loader, according to the statement.
Peterson said a reconstruction team was dispatched to the site in an effort to learn how the accident happened.
He said the team used a helicopter to take overhead pictures of the stretch of freeway and will look at the truck and other information to figure out what happened.
"We will look at criminal charges," Peterson said. He estimated that the wheel that hit Ander's truck weighed more than 100 pounds.
Ander headed the maintenance department at Mutual Management, a property management company for apartment and commercial buildings, said co-worker Dennis Butler. Ander had been with the firm for six years.
"He had a good sense of humor," said Butler. "He was an integral part of the company, and he enjoyed spending time with his family."
Ander routinely showed up at the office, between 7 and 8 a.m., sometimes making a work-related stop beforehand, Butler said. He said that he and other co-workers were stunned by the news of Ander's death.
"It makes one introspective when something like this happens to someone you are close to," he said.