Thursday, July 27, 2017

Drunk wrong-way driver Christine Parks, 31, of Severn, MD kills self and another driver, Hui Xu, 34, of Herndon, Virginia, in a head-on crash on Route 50 near the Bay Bridge in Annapolis, MD

Severn Woman Killed In Head-On Route 50 Crash

Two people died Wednesday in a head-on crash on Route 50 near the Bay Bridge, authorities say. Alcohol was found in a Severn woman's car.

By Deb Belt (Patch National Staff) - Updated July 26, 2017 4:27 pm ET

ANNAPOLIS, MD — A Severn woman was one of two people who died early Wednesday morning in a head-on crash on Route 50 near the Bay Bridge in Annapolis, authorities say. All westbound lanes of the highway were closed for five hours as the crash was investigated, but traffic is now moving through the area.

Alcohol use by one of the drivers may have played a role in the crash, authorities said. WJZ reports that alcoholic beverage containers were found in the Severn driver's vehicle.

Maryland State Police say troopers from the Annapolis Barrack were on their way to Route 50 at the Severn River Bridge about 2 a.m. after authorities received a call that reported a vehicle was eastbound in the westbound lanes of Route 50. Moments later, a trooper in the area came upon a crash scene at westbound Route 50 and Bay Dale Drive. Three vehicles were involved in the crash.

The drivers killed are Christine Parks, 31, of Severn and Hui Xu, 34, of Herndon, Virginia, WJZ reports. Authorities say the vehicle driven by Parks was eastbound in the left lane of westbound Route 50, and struck the vehicle driven by Xu head-on. The impact caused Xu’s 2002 Honda Civic to spin into the middle lane, where it was struck by a 2014 Toyota Avalon. The driver and passenger of the Avalon, a 21-year-old man and woman from California, were both were taken to Anne Arundel County Medical Center, where they were treated and released.

All lanes of westbound Route 50 were closed as area fire and rescue units responded. There were no passengers in the vehicles driven by Parks and Xu, state police say.

Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration personnel detoured westbound traffic at Cape St. Clair Road while the highway was closed.

The cause of the crash has not been confirmed at this time.

This is a drunk-related crash.  Most of these crashes occur in the early a.m. hours, like this one.


By daybreak, you could see the crushed wreckage of the cars after the head-on crash on Route 50 near Bay Dale Drive, and moments before impact, about two in the morning, at least five people called 911 reporting the vehicle, which had been traveling the wrong way.

"A car just came at me about 100 miles per hour going the wrong way on Route 50," said one motorist who narrowly avoided the oncoming car.

But seconds later, a head-on crash left this caller who had stopped on the other side of the highway to describe its aftermath.

"The car is smoking,” said the female caller. “I don't think it's on fire. It looks like he hit the Jersey wall I think and maybe another vehicle. Oh my God! I'd get somebody out here quick."

Maryland State Police shut down the westbound lanes of the highway as rescue workers attempted to pry the victims from the wreckage. The second such wrong-way accident within a half mile of each other on this same stretch of the highway.

"It appears the driver of a 2002 Hyundai Accent identified as Christine Parks of Severn was headed eastbound in the westbound lanes and as she was traveling in the left lane of the westbound lanes, she struck another vehicle head-on," said Greg Shipley of the Maryland State Police.

Investigators say 34-year-old Hui Xu of Herndon, Virginia also died in the crash.

As his Honda Civic spun into the middle of the highway, a third vehicle carrying two people from California crashed into it, but they walked away with minor injuries.

"The cause of the crash has not been positively identified, but investigators have not ruled out the involvement of alcohol in this crash,” said Shipley. “There were bottles of alcoholic beverages found in the vehicle."

Following a double fatal crash in May on the eastbound side of Route 50, the State Highway Administration reviewed the signage, lane markings and lighting, but found no contributing factors.

We're told they will conduct a similar review in the aftermath of this incident.


BALTIMORE (WJZ) — All lanes of westbound Route 50 at Bay Dale Drive were closed for several hours early Wednesday morning after two people were killed in a three vehicle crash.

The drivers of the two cars that collided head-on, 31-year-old Christine Parks of Severn and 34-year-old Hui Xu of Herndon, Virginia, were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Two cars mangled and two people killed, the aftermath of yet another wrong way crash along Route 50. It’s the second time this month, and the third time in recent weeks.

Maryland State Police say troopers from the Annapolis Barrack were dispatched to Route 50 at the Severn River Bridge around 2 a.m., after a call came in reporting a vehicle traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes.

Moments later, a trooper in the area came upon a crash scene at westbound Route 50 and Bay Dale Drive. The vehicles involved were a 2002 Hyundai Accent driven by Parks, a 2002 Honda Civic driven by Xu and a 2014 Toyota Avalon.

The preliminary investigation by the Maryland State Police Crash Team indicates the vehicle driven by Parks was traveling eastbound in the left lane of westbound Route 50.

Parks struck the vehicle driven by Xu head-on, causing Xu’s vehicle to rotate into the middle lane, where it was struck by the Toyota Avalon.

The driver and passenger of the Avalon, a 21-year-old man and woman from California, were both transported to the Anne Arundel County Medical Center where they were treated and released.

Investigators are trying to figure out why Parks was driving the wrong way, and where she got on Route 50.

The cause and contributing factors of the crash have not been determined, but alcohol has not been ruled out as a factor.

Alcoholic beverage containers were found in Parks’ vehicle. Speed is not believed to be a factor at this time.


Deaths mount in wrong-way crashes near Annapolis

Five people have died in three wrong-way accidents on the Route 50 corridor in Anne Arundel County since May, with the latest double-fatality coming Wednesday at Bay Dale Drive near Annapolis. The Capital toured intersections on the corridor Wednesday to look for anything obvious that might confuse a motorist who was distracted, disabled, under the influence or unfamiliar with the area. Here’s what we found... 

Phil Davis

For the third time since May, a driver managed to get onto a major expressway near Annapolis headed in the wrong direction, drive for some distance and then collide with an oncoming car.

Two people were killed Wednesday in the latest wrong-way crash on Route 50, bringing the number of such fatalities to five in just over two months.

Maryland State Police said Christine Parks, 31, of Severn, and Hui Xu, 34, of Herndon, Virginia, were pronounced dead at the scene following a three-car crash on Route 50 near Bay Dale Drive.

A preliminary investigation shows that Parks was traveling east in the westbound lanes of Route 50. She was spotted near the Severn River Bridge at about 2 a.m.

Two people were killed in an apparent wrong-way crash on Route 50 and police say one of the victims was found with alcohol in her car. Maryland State Police said Christine Parks, 31, of Severn and Hui Xu,, 34, of Virginia, were pronounced dead at the scene after Parks crashed her 2002 Hyundia Accent head-on with Xu's 2002 Honda Civic near Bay Dale Drive.

A driver and passenger in the third car — Alexander Kwon and Janet Kim, both 21-year-olds from California — were also injured. They were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center and released, police said.

How is this happening? Is it the drivers? Is it the road?

Investigators have been unable to say why any of the crashes occurred, but have made progress in explaining how.

In the July 8 death of Joseph Chisarick, 24, of Rockville, police said Wednesday he was under the influence of alcohol when he died on Interstate 97 just north of the Route 50 interchange.

In the case of Laura Ashley Murphy, 22, of Salisbury, state highway officials said engineers studying the crash have determined the spot where she entered the highway in May was adequately marked.

Investigators are focusing on alcohol as a possible factor in the death of Parks. Police said she drove an undetermined distance the wrong way until she crashed into Xu's vehicle. Investigators found alcohol containers in her car. No tests have shown yet whether she was under the influence.

A 2016 study by the state Motor Vehicle Administration determined that one-third of all fatal crashes in Maryland between 2009 and 2013 involved alcohol.

The same study found that more than "three in every four crashes involving impaired drivers (78.1 percent) occurred in nine Maryland counties plus the city of Baltimore, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's and Washington counties."

While police say the circumstances surrounding the crashes vary, the investigations so far have not revealed any faults in the exit or entrance ramps on the major highways.

Parks was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Route 50 for an unknown distance. Police don't know where she got onto the highway.

She crashed not far from the spot Murphy died, although on the opposite side of the highway.

Murphy, 22, drove the wrong way up the Busch's Frontage Road exit ramp on May 17, driving westbound on Route 50's eastbound lanes and causing a head-on collision about two miles away.

The crash killed Murphy and a Robert Skidmore, 66, of Cape St. Claire. Murphy's infant son and a Bowie man in a third car survived.

Police said an autopsy found no alcohol or drugs in Murphy's system at the time of the crash.

In the days following the accident, people familiar with the area questioned whether the exit ramp and Busch's Frontage Road were contributing factors.

The two-way road parallels Route 50 and provides access to businesses and at least one residential neighborhood. But it leads oncoming traffic directly to the foot of the ramp. The owner of an auto shop next to the ramp said he regularly sees people driving onto the ramp the wrong way.

Charlie Gischlar, a State Highway Administration spokesman, said Wednesday that traffic engineers have determined the signs and lane markings at the spot are adequate. State officials point to the "Do Not Enter" sign.

Similar signs are common on roads and ramps connecting to Route 50 as it cuts across Anne Arundel County.

But there are spots where, despite the warnings, a driver could turn onto Route 50 the wrong way. The two-lane Baltimore and Annapolis Boulevard ends in a stop sign a few feet from Route 50 west. A few miles away, a gap in the guardrail on Skidmore Road creates a space through which drivers could exit or enter the eastbound lanes.

The Baltimore and Annapolis Boulevard intersection is near the Bay Dale Drive interchange, where police said Wednesday's collision occurred. Parks was spotted driving in the wrong direction by at least one passing motorist who called authorities, but police have not discussed where she was seen.

Police also have not said where Chisarick got onto the highway on July 8. He drove the wrong way on southbound I-97 after exiting Route 50.

State police spokesman Ron Snyder said the autopsy found alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.

Investigators ruled the crash accidental.

A 6-alarm fire that destroyed an under construction Dorchester apartment building was caused by an improperly installed exhaust pipe too close to combustibles

BOSTON, Mass. - A 6-alarm fire that destroyed an under construction Dorchester apartment building was caused by an improperly installed exhaust pipe, said the Boston fire commissioner

The fire, which happened on June 28, started in the afternoon following an all day test of the emergency generator. Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn said it was being tested so an inspection the following day.

Finn said the exhaust pipe was between the top floor and the roof, and it was located too closely to combustibles. There is supposed to be a 12-inch clearance, but it was more like three inches, said Finn.

One of the main issues was the delay in notification of the fire, said Finn. He said the sprinkler system was installed but not turned on; legally it did not need to be.

"We are going to be working better protect these buildings when they are in their most vulnerable state. Their most vulnerable state is when they are under construction," said Finn.

Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher said in buildings like these, the garage and first floor are not combustible, while the rest of it is a wood frame.

"This is an example of something we don't want to have happen again," said he said.

On Sunday, an apartment building under construction went up in flames Sunday morning. It was also a wood frame.

Finn said they are still investigating the fire, but they are confident in the findings thus far. 


The city’s fire commissioner blasted workers for taking 90 minutes to report the June 28 fire that destroyed a six-story building in Dorchester and said city officials are working on new construction safety standards — particularly those with highly flammable wood frames.

“It’s a grave concern. It’s a total breakdown on the construction site itself. There should be no delay in the response. It’s a very concerning issue for me,” fire Commissioner Joseph Finn said yesterday of workers at 1971-1979 Dorchester Ave. who smelled smoke but waited an hour and a half to call the Fire Department.

Finn and Inspectional Services Commissioner Buddy Christopher described the delay at a press conference yesterday about the fire that tore through the six-story Treadmark building that was set for occupancy within weeks.

Finn said the fire began in the space between the sixth floor and the roof when hot exhaust piping from a generator that was being tested ignited combustible material.

That exhaust pipe was supposed to be 12 inches away from any combustible material but was likely only three inches away, Finn said. Christopher said ISD inspectors likely would have caught the problem had they completed an inspection scheduled for the day after the fire. He added he said he did not think developers in Boston’s housing boom were cutting corners.

“We have the absolute faith in our construction industry here in Boston,” Christopher said. “We do not think this is a systemic problem across the city.”

The building had a working sprinkler system at the time of the fire, but it was not turned on, Finn said — which is allowed under state building code that only requires sprinklers be on after a building gets its certificate of occupancy. Finn said that hampered fighting the fire, but the main concern was that workers had smelled smoke and saw haze at 1 p.m. and didn’t call BFD until 2:30 p.m.

“The No. 1 problem was the delay in notification,” Finn said. “We have thermal imaging cameras, we could’ve found this fire in a short amount of time.”

A spokeswoman for Cranshaw Construction, the building’s general contractor, did not immediately return request for comment.

The building’s mostly wood structure is allowed under the International Building Code, but Christopher said ISD and BFD officials will review procedures for examining wood buildings that are under construction and most likely to catch fire.

“At this point we’re not planning to change the building code or anything like that, this is more about the process during construction, when the building is in its most unprotected state,” Christopher said.


The Boston building and fire commissioners Wednesday promised to look for ways to make large wood-frame buildings safer during construction, a time when they said the buildings are most vulnerable to fire.

Specifically, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn said lightweight engineered wood, which was used in the Dorchester Avenue apartment building that caught fire on June 28, poses a hazard to firefighters.

“I have concerns about the lightweight construction, as we’ve just witnessed,” Finn said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “Fire in these type of buildings develop very rapidly. They’re very dangerous when they do develop like that.”

Workers smelled smoke in the apartment building around 1 p.m. on June 28, just after returning from lunch, Finn said. They didn’t call the Fire Department until 2:30, giving the fire a big head start.

By the time firefighters arrived, the roof was on the verge of collapse.

“Nine minutes upon arrival of our companies and that roof collapsed on the southwest corner of the building, the point of origin,” Finn said.

Finn and Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher Jr. said members of their departments will meet to come up with recommendations to make the building process safer, as larger and taller wood-frame structures continue to spring up in and all around Boston.

Both Finn and Christopher stressed that wood structures, including those using lightweight engineered wood, are safe once fire suppression systems, like sprinklers and fire-rated drywall, are in place. But construction poses different risks because those systems are not in place, and exposed wood has plenty of oxygen available to burn.

Christopher said he does not intend to push for a change to the building code to prevent certain materials from being used or to reduce the square-footage of buildings that can be constructed with wood.

“This is more about the process during construction when the building is in its most unprotected state,” he said.

Christopher said the structure met the required building codes. The sprinkler system was operational, but not yet activated. It was scheduled for a final inspection on June 29, the next day. During that inspection, the sprinklers would have been pressurized and tested.

The NBC Boston Investigators have been looking into lightweight engineered wood for a month, prompted by that Dorchester fire.

The material is made like plywood, where small wood chips are glued and pressed together. Beams are made with several layers of that pressed together. I-beams are comprised of plywood between two runners of dimensional lumber.

Expert tests and several studies show that the plywood portion of the I-beams, which are used in the floor and ceiling structure, burn through three times faster than dimensional lumber. That leads to a faster structural failure than floors and ceilings supported by dimensional lumber.


BOSTON (CBS) – The massive fire at the Treadmark building in the Ashmont section of Dorchester is raising questions about a commonly-used building material.

Construction was nearing completion on the mixed-use condominium and affordable housing project when flames broke out Wednesday afternoon, causing millions of dollars in damage.

While the official cause of the fire will have to wait until the investigation is complete, the Boston Fire Department told reporters lightweight construction materials made fighting the fire difficult because they burn more quickly.

Boston Firefighters battle large blaze on Dorchester Ave. (WBZ-TV)

“The dimension of the lumber is different,” BFD Commissioner Joseph Finn said. “Think about if you are lighting a fire in a fireplace, the smaller stuff starts first, the larger stuff takes time to burn.”

Finn was talking about engineered I-beams. Builders love them because they are strong and less expensive than solid wood.

However, the speed at which they burn has become an ongoing issue for firefighters.

Back in 2015, with the help of the Fire Chief’s Association in New Hampshire, the I-Team observed an unscientific experiment to show the differences in the burn rates.

Treadmark building damaged by fire in Dorchester (WBZ-TV)

Firefighters set up an I-beam next to a solid beam and set them on fire.

Within minutes, the I-beam was significantly compromised while the solid piece remained stable. After ten minutes, the I-beam burned through and started to sag under the weight of a cinderblock sitting on top.

“That floor would have collapsed by now, had there been a human being on that floor,” explained NH State Fire Marshal William Degnan.

The construction material has been a contributing factor in several other massive fires around the country.

In North Carolina earlier this year, an apartment complex under construction went up in flames. And in 2015, an occupied apartment complex in New Jersey also suffered extensive fire damage.

Despite these instances, the cheaper materials are allowed under Massachusetts and international building codes. However, they can’t be used in buildings over six stories.

Builders are also using these beams in home construction, which can pose a danger for firefighters.

Several Agawam firefighters got out of one burning home just in the nick of time under a sagging floor.

“Probably one of the closest calls that we have ever encountered,” Chief Alan Sirois told the I-Team in 2015. “The potential for loss of life was very high.”

Code regulations in Massachusetts now require I-beams to be covered in sheet rock to increase the burn rate and give firefighters more time.

Finn told reporters the beams in the Dorchester Avenue fire were covered, but still remarked at how quickly the flames spread.

“Within nine minutes of our first arriving companies, the roof started to sag and cave in,” he said.

Finn did say buildings like this are safe as long as sprinklers and other fire protection systems are in working order. Investigators are trying to determine whether the sprinklers in the Treadmark building were turned off or didn’t function properly.

Berry Plastics worker Noel Oquendo, 46, of Washington, NJ died after he was struck in the head by machinery in Lopatcong Township

Noel Oquendo (right) with his wife

Lopatcong Township police on Wednesday morning identified the man who died Tuesday at a township plastics manufacturing business.

Noel Oquendo, 46, of Washington, died after an incident involving him trying to resolve an issue with a machine he was using, police Chief Jason Garcia said.

Oquendo was struck in the head, but Garcia didn't have a cause and manner of the Berry Plastics employee's death. The Morris County medical examiner will make that determination.

The company employee was from Washington, police say.

Oquendo was working at a machine that printed labels for plastic bottles before they were shipped, Garcia said Tuesday.

What Garcia termed an industrial accident inside the business at 190 Stryker Road is being investigated by OSHA.

A local manager for the Evansville, Indiana-based corporation didn't return a phone call on Tuesday.

Here is some info on Noel Oquendo form his Facebook page:

Operator at Berry Global
Lives in Washington, New Jersey
From Hoboken, New Jersey


By Tony Rhodin,


A 46-year-old Washington man died Tuesday in an industrial accident at a Lopatcong Township manufacturing company, police report.

The man was working in an area with numerous machines at Berry Plastics, 190 Stryker Road, police Chief Jason Garcia said at the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicates the man was struck in the head just after 11:30 a.m. "as he was tending to a possible problem with the machine he was manning," Garcia said later in a news release. The machine printed labels for plastic bottles before they were shipped, the chief added.

The man was a company employee, Garcia said.

The Morris County medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of death and the man's identity will be released once family is notified, Garcia confirmed.

OSHA sent personnel to investigate the workplace incident at the specialty plastics maker, according to the Avenel, New Jersey, office.

A local plant manager didn't immediately return a phone call seeking more information. The company is based in Evansville, Indiana, with several plants throughout the world.

As a light rain fell early Tuesday afternoon, a few employees quietly got in their cars and drove off, but outside of police vehicles, it was hard to tell something had happened.

A sign outside an entrance says, "Safety's not a job it's our way of life."

Insurance agent Timothy Hewitt, of South Abington Twp., PA faces felony charges for allegedly defrauding or stealing the premiums from three clients: Diaz Forest Products, Diaz Stone and Pallet and Diaz Manufacturing


A 41-year-old insurance agent faces felony charges for allegedly defrauding or stealing the premiums from three clients: Diaz Forest Products, Diaz Stone and Pallet and Diaz Manufacturing, police said Wednesday.

Timothy Hewitt, of South Abington Twp., was charged Tuesday with counts of insurance fraud, forgery, theft and unlicensed broker/agent activity by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Task Force.

Allegations police detailed against Hewitt include:
  • Allowing Diaz Forest Products’ workers compensation policy to lapse but continuing to bill the business for the premium. The company is in Harford Twp. in Susquehanna County.
  • Allowing four Diaz Manufacturing policies to lapse in the 2016-17 policy period despite the company remitting the full annual premiums to Hewitt. Diaz Manufacturing is in Montrose.
  • Overbilling Diaz Stone and Pallet $129,650 for four policies in 2016-17 and attempting to overbill the business $61,390 for four policies in 2017-18. One of the policies lapsed and wasn’t in effect when Hewitt billed Diaz Stone and Pallet, which also is in Harford Twp., for the premium.

In criminal complaints, Detective Joseph Sarkis, who works for the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office and is a member of the task force, described a range of allegations including Hewitt creating insurance cards for six vehicles that weren’t actually insured and issuing certificates of insurance when policies weren’t in effect.

Sarkis described Hewitt broadly denying wrongdoing charge by charge in interviews with police.

For example, Hewitt said he did not overbill Dias Stone and Pallet. Rather, he said he had an arrangement with company officials that they would pay him extra through premiums for additional work he did, such as helping with fleet management and working to get the best possible rate on auto policies — which the company denied.

“Hewitt agreed that any invoice that was provided was paid in full by Diaz,” Sarkis wrote. “He acknowledged that any lapse in coverage of any policy would not be the fault of Diaz. He stated that he was unaware of any lapse in coverage of any of Diaz’s policies. He stated that there was a period of time where his P.O. box was closed, and perhaps that is when he received notices of lapses in coverage.”

Hewitt was arraigned Wednesday and released on $20,000 unsecured bail.

Web search shows that Timothy Hewitt was associated with
Associated Insurance Agency (AIA) of PA.  He has an email address with that business.

Aia Of Pa is a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name filed on February 28, 2011 . The company's filing status is listed as Active and its File Number is 4018126. The company's principal address is 5 Zimmerman Street, Clarks Summit, PA 18411.

The company has 2 principals on record. The principals are Associated Insurance Agency Of Pa, Inc. from Clarks Summit PA and Timothy Hewitt from Clarks Summit PA.


SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, PA — An insurance agent in Lackawanna County is accused of theft and fraud for overbilling clients and charging clients for insurance policies that had lapsed.

Investigators said Timothy Hewitt, 41, of South Abington Township, overbilled clients $129,650 for insurance policies in 2016-2017.

He is also accused of trying to bill clients for lapsed policies and creating fake insurance documents to facilitate the overbilling.

Hewitt was arraigned Wednesday on charges of insurance fraud, forgery, theft, and other charges. He was released on bail.


Wind turbine on fire

The geared wind turbines continue to be plagued by numerous gearbox (more accurately the bearings within the gearbox), blade, mechanical, weather-related (e.g. lightning), design and maintenance issues. 

Just yesterday Siemens announced that the wind projects are not viable without heavy government subsidies. The failure of the bearings located within the gearbox is the most significant problem associated with the turbines This year, Siemens, a main manufacturer of wind turbines, reported a charge of 48 million Euros for inspecting and replacing defective main bearings in some onshore wind turbines. Structural and mechanical failures (which can result in a tower collapse) are primarily due to control system errors and lack of effective maintenance. 

If it was not for the government subsidizing of these systems, they would have never been built that way. This blog addresses the major causes of failure of wind turbines.

Wind turbines generate electricity through the wind-induced rotation of two to three aerodynamic blades located around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft that is connected to a generator that in turn spins to create electricity. We have seen wind turbines smaller than 100 kW and as large as 6,000 kW. The wind turbines can generate electricity to run a single piece of equipment (e.g. a water irrigation pump) at a particular facility or can produce electricity for sale to a power grid. 

The annual wind turbine capacity of the United States continues to grow exponentially. This growth is fueled by investment tax credits, federal goals of mandatory generation of electricity from renewable sources, rising energy demand, and other factors.

The biggest wind turbine manufacturers include General Electric, Vestas, Siemens, Clipper, Mitsubishi, Suzlon, Alstom, and Gamesa.

Crews lift a blade assembly onto the nacelle of Gamesa's G9X-2.0-megawatt turbine at the NWTC. 

The main components of a wind turbine system are:

· Tower, made from tubular steel, concrete, or steel lattice;
· Foundation for the turbine’s tower, nacelle and rotor blades;
· Nacelle; it houses the mechanical, electrical, electronic and other components of the turbine;
· Rotor Blades that rotate and cause the rotor to spin;
· Transformer;
· Generator that produces AC electricity from mechanical (rotational) energy; usually an induction generator;
· Rotor; it is formed by the blades and the hub;
· Brake that stops the rotor;
· Tail, but not all turbine types have tails;
· Gearbox that changes between the low and high gear shaft to increase the rotational speed to 1,000-1,800 rpm;
· Electronic control panel ;
· Shafts (low and high speed) connecting the rotor to the generator
· Blade power control system (controls the blade pitch and the yaw);
· Anemometer (wind speed control) and wind vane (wind direction control)

Anatomy of a wind turbine

A commercial, utility-scale wind energy generation facility typically consists of tens to hundreds of wind turbines capable of generating hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy. In addition to the wind turbines, other facilities associated with a wind farm project include access roads, temporary crane paths, underground power collection lines, aboveground generation tie lines (gen-tie), collector substations, interconnection switch yard, several permanent and temporary meteorological towers, and operations and maintenance building.

A 6,000-kW offshore wind turbine

The useful life of these wind turbines is supposed to be 20 years. However, the turbines have been plagued by numerous problems and this 20-year life is rather a utopia than anything else. Gearboxes and bearings in wind turbines, more than those in any other application, tend to fail prematurely. In fact, at some wind projects, up to half of all bearings inside the gearboxes fail within a few years. 

There are several reasons for this, including the poor understanding of gear functioning during storms and gusty winds, relative immaturity of the technology and industry, the rapid evolution of turbines to extra-large sizes, poor understanding of turbine loads, and an emerging (and largely unexplained) failure mode in turbine bearings called axial cracking.

Axial cracking in the gearbox of the wind turbine

The fact that the manufacturers of the turbines provide only a two-year warranty, is pretty good evidence of the reliability of this technology at this time. For example, the catastrophic gear box failures appear to be caused primarily by induced mechanical voltage straying through the gearbox, pitting the bearings. This has happened, in some cases, within 18 months after the turbine was placed into service.

Insurance for Wind Farms and Turbines

Like any piece of complex machinery operating under stress, turbines can fail. They break. They develop faults. They are improperly constructed. They are improperly maintained, and so on. And without the right care and protection policy in place, the resultant claim can quickly spiral out of control. For the owner and investor, this can lead to lost revenue and operational downtime; at worse, it means absorbing an increasingly daunting repair bill. We outline the top causes for turbine failure and explain what to do when things go wrong.

Wind farm insurance packages can include: construction insurance, physical damage, and third-party liability insurance coverage for delays in building of a wind farm, loss of earnings, and business interruption once the operation is running. Specifically, wind turbine coverage can compensate the policyholder for production losses if the wind farm’s annual wind levels fall below forecast.
Based on our investigations, we list below the most commonly encountered causes of wind turbine failures:

· Bearings and Gearbox issues – this is the Achilles Heel of the Gear-Driven Turbine
· Lightning strikes
· Blade design, manufacturing and installation issues
· Mechanical Breakdown (generators and transformers, burning the windings due to overspeed, etc.)
· Hydraulic failures
· Wind turbine and wind farm electric systems
· Grid failures
· Nacelle fire
· Improper handling during transportation, construction and improper assembly
· Human error(s) in O&M, construction and design
· Turbine collapse
· Natural Catastrophic events
· Yaw motor events
· Poor O&M arrangements
· Axial Stress
· Foundation damage
· Icing
· Accumulation of bugs, dirt and other debris
· For offshore turbines, the power converter suffers from high failure rates

We will address these failure modes below. 


In a typical year we expect to see total losses – typically caused by a fire – whereby the unit can no longer be repaired and is declared a total loss. In these instances, the most common causes are internal component failure or a buildup of material in lubricants. This can start an escalating spiral of sequential events and a rather spectacular – if not expensive – mechanical fire.

Fires are the second highest cause of catastrophic turbine failure

Extreme Weather

In occasional circumstances, extreme weather is also responsible for failure – whereby the wind speed and the elements simply become too much for the engineering dynamics of the machine. Brakes fail, blades seize up and the chain of events continues to make things worse.

Root Causes of Generator Failure

The main root causes of failure of generators at wind turbine sites include but are not limited to:

· Failure to follow recommend maintenance practices regarding the lubrication procedures, collector systems, etc.; mechanical or electrical failure of bearing, rotor lead failures, cooling system failures leading to excessive heat and fire.
· Lightning strikes, wind loading, weather extremes, lubricant contamination, thermal cycling, etc.
· Misalignment and other improper installation, excessive vibration, voltage irregularities, convertor failure, improper grounding, overspeed that results in burning of the windings, etc.
· Manufacturing and/or design failures, such as, loose components (wedges, banding), inadequate electrical insulation, transient shaft voltages, poorly designed/crimped lead connectors, rotor lead failures, the presence of other components inside the nacelle that complicate service, etc.
· For generators that are less than 1,000-kW, the most common failure mode is damage to rotor, following by stator, bearings, collector rings and miscellaneous generator failures. For generators that are between 1,000- and 2,000-kW, the most common failure mode was associated with the bearings, followed by collector rings, rotor, stator, cooling system, rotor leads and miscellaneous failure modes. For generators that were greater than 2,000-KW, the most common failure mode was associated with bearings, followed by stator, stator wedge, rotor, rotor leads, collector rings and miscellaneous failures. 

Maintenance is the critical factor affecting machinery life. Proper repairs are also critical to the reliability and longevity of the turbine generator.

Damage to the generator windings due to over-speed and subsequent overheating of the windings

Then there are the gearbox and blade lightning strikes.
Again, these create a spectacular display but also a spectacularly large loss – with the resultant damage often requiring either extensive turbine down time and a complex replacement or repair.

Blade Failure Modes

The main causes of failure of turbine blades include: lightning strikes, foreign object damage, poor design, material failure, power regulator failure. A combined thermal and stress analysis of a lightning strike model of typical wind turbine blade material (including E-glass composite layups) shows that the fiberglass material immediately surrounding the lightning attachment location becomes damaged due to plastic deformation. Depending on the magnitude and number of lightning strikes, the blade has the potential to fail under an extreme static gust load, under fatigue, or a combination of the two.

Turbine blade damaged by lightning strike.

Accumulations of bugs, oil, and ice on the blades will also reduce power as much as 40%. Regular cleaning of the blades has become a maintenance requirement. Included in the hours of down time for cleaning the blades is ice built-up when the ice causes the airfoil shape to be changed and the turbine cannot produce power.

Broken wind blade

Bearing Failures - The Achilles Heel of Geared Wind Turbines

No matter what type of turbine model, mainshaft bearings are common failure points. The main reason: spherical roller bearings are not the optimal bearing configuration. Large amount of radial internal clearance (RIC) are needed to facilitate original bearing assembly at the manufacturer. Although this simplifies the assembly at the turbine OEM, this clearance is not well suited for handling axial loads. The proper bearing configuration would be a pre-loaded tapered roller bearing, but this would have increased both turbine assembly time, as well as purchased cost. 

As a result of this configuration, the thrust from the wind causes the mainshaft to move axially towards the gearbox until the clearance has been absorbed, hence unseating the upwind row while the downwind row now sees the majority of the load.

The primary failure mode of the mainshaft bearing is macropitting (spalling) of the downwind race. The unloaded upwind row will then skid and skew as result of having no roller tractions, creating a second failure mode of micropitting. The micropitting is also called ‘grey staining’ or ‘frosting’. 

This consists of microscopic cracks only a few microns deep (about .0001 inches). Individually these cracks are too small to be visible. As they accumulate they appear as grey stains on the roller surface. Eventually the bearing roller starts to shed its cracked and weakened surface losing a small bit of its precision tolerance. Furthermore, this contaminates the oil with microscopic super hard steel particles most of which are too small to be filtered out. Why does grey staining begin? Typically it is a breakdown of the oil film that separates the rollers from the races.

There are many opinions in the public domain summarizing common indications of specific operating conditions in conjunction with premature failures in wind turbine applications: 

· periods of heavy and dynamic loads/torques – leading to vibrations and rapid load changes (e.g. transient raceway stress exceeding 3.1 GPa, heavy loads of 15,000 per year, impact loads). Such transient events can include: grid loss, high wind shutdowns, wind gusts, curtailments, control malfunctions, generator short circuits, resonant vibration, misc emergency stops. Although these reversals are infrequent, they can be severe.
· depending on turbine type, additional radial and axial forces by the rotor, axial motion of the main shaft – leading to dynamical loading, higher stresses of gearbox components especially in the first stage
· occasional connecting and disconnecting of the generator to/from the power grid – leading to torque reversals and bouncing effects (which e.g. can lead up to 2.5-4 times higher nominal torque and impact loads)
· rapid accelerations/decelerations and motions of the gearbox shafts
· misalignment, structural deformations (nacelle hub, housings)
· lubricant compromise between needs of gears and bearings as well as between low and high speed stages, insufficient oil drains and refill intervals
· harsh environmental conditions – possible large temperature changes and consequently larger temperature differences between the bearing inner ring and housing than expected when starting up, dust, cold climate, moisture and salt water (especially for off-and near-shore turbines)
· idling conditions – leading to low load conditions and risk of skidding damage (adhesive wear) and wear in the low running stage
· conflicting design needs, e.g. increasing rolling element size will increase the load capacity but simultaneously increase the risk for cage-and roller slip and sliding damage

As stated above, bearings may fail due to other reasons not covered by best practice standards and from other industrial experiences. 

Statistical evaluations of onshore and offshore wind turbines indicate clearly a correlation between failure rate, wind speed and heavy and fluctuating loads.

Metropolitan Engineering, Consulting & Forensics (MECF)
Providing Competent, Expert and Objective Investigative Engineering and Consulting Services
P.O. Box 520
Tenafly, NJ 07670-0520
Tel.: (973) 897-8162
Fax: (973) 810-0440
We are happy to announce the launch of our twitter account. Please make sure to follow us at @MetropForensics or @metroforensics1
Metropolitan appreciates your business.
Feel free to recommend our services to your friends and colleagues.