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Man's death by runaway wheel on Route 28 ruled accident

| Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 7:34 p.m.

A Hampton man killed Friday when a loose wheel smashed through his windshield died of head and neck injuries, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said Saturday.

The office has ruled Robert Lofink's death as an accident, but neighbors described it as a tragedy.

“A real shock,” said Jack Klotz, a neighbor of the Lofinks' for about three decades.

Robert Lofink, 75, was a good neighbor with a good sense of humor and a generous spirit, he said. The two men would talk about every other week, often when Lofink was out in his garden.

“He has two daughters. He was always there for them and the grandchildren — you could tell,” he said. “A good man.”

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

The family declined an interview Saturday.

Allegheny County police have charged Eric Gonzalez-Huerta, 23, of Louisville with a felony count of causing an accident involving death and a misdemeanor count of causing a fatal accident while driving without a license. He's also charged with driving without a license and without insurance.

Gonzaelz-Huerta, who is in the country illegally, is being held in the Allegheny County Jail on $250,000 bail, according to court records. His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 2 in Pittsburgh Municipal Court.

Lofink was driving north on Route 28 when a wheel from Gonzalez-Huerta's southbound trailer bounded over the concrete barrier and smashed through his windshield.

The accident occurred at 10:45 a.m. near the Shaler water pumphouse between the 40th and 62nd streets bridges.

Gonzalez-Huerta was hauling debris from an unidentified construction site in Ford City to a landfill in McKees Rocks. He did not stop. Gonzalez-Huerta told police that he didn't notice a wheel was missing until he stopped in McKees Rocks, according to the criminal complaint.

A man driving behind him saw the wheel come off a trailer with a black tarp that was hauled by a white Ford F-450, according to the complaint filed in the case.

The witness followed the truck to the McKees Rocks Bridge. Officers issued an alert and stopped Gonzalez-Huerta on his return trip to Ford City, about 90 minutes after the accident.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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