No U-Haul issue found in Douglas County boy’s death
March 23, 2013
An investigation into the Feb. 24 accident that killed 4-year-old Mason Geist near Spring Valley revealed there was no mechanical malfunction in the U-Haul truck involved in the accident.
Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said investigators believe the boy shifted the truck from park into neutral, setting it in motion and resulting in Mason being bounced out of the cab.
Family members took video of the truck shifting from park to neutral without the brake pedal being pressed. They said a label on the truck's dash told drivers the brake had to be pressed to work the shift.
"I think there's something wrong with it if it popped out of gear," said Robert Geist, Mason's father. "If it has a sticker that says you have to press the brake to shift from park, it shouldn't go out of gear. I've seen a couple of times on the Internet where a U-Haul truck popped out of gear without even pressing the shift lever."
No drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, Howell said. The report will be forwarded to the Douglas County district attorney for final review.
Robert Geist said Mason was not restrained in the cab of the vehicle. He said he was sure he placed the vehicle in park before stepping out and leaving the door open. He said he checked clearance on the passenger side, while his nephew checked the driver's side; then the truck began rolling downhill.
Geist thought he'd applied the emergency brake, a hand lever mounted beside the driver's seat, before getting out. He said he definitely remembers putting the vehicle in park.
When the truck took off down the hill, family members chased it, attempting to reach Mason. But the boy fell out and was struck by the vehicle. He was later pronounced dead at Carson Valley Medical Center.