CHARLOTTE, N.C.--The cause of last week s single car accident that killed a local elementary school teacher has been determined.

Christina Whelan, 27, lost control and slammed into the inside wall twice near exit 23 while traveling southbound on Interstate 85 on August 30.

The N.C. Highway Patrol determined Wednesday a loose piece of metal called a leaf spring from a northbound dump truck hit the pavement, flew over the median and crashed through the windshield of Whelan s vehicle, causing her to swerve off the highway during her morning commute.

Whelan was a second grade teacher at Carr Elementary this year after spending six years as a first grade teacher at Brookside Elementary. Medic airlifted her to Carolinas Medical Center with life-threatening injuries before she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Highway Patrol initially said the car may have experienced some type of equipment failure.

Wednesday afternoon, Highway Patrol Troopers conducted 32-point tractor trailer inspections that are meant to prevent an accident like the one that killed Whelan.

We're looking for cracks and missing pieces, said Trooper Darren Conrad as he inspected an 18-wheeler.

Conrad was paying close attention to the suspension of those trucks, since it is a piece of one that caused last week's wreck.

The leaf spring came off, went airborne, struck concrete, and came back up, he said. [The piece] struck the windshield of the car at a good 100 or 120 miles per hour.

Troopers told NewsChannel 36 a failed inspection could pull a truck from the road until it is fixed.

It is an automatic out of service, Conrad said. That means that truck does not move another inch.

However, because troopers cannot look over each and every truck, they said it's up to you to keep your eyes on the road.

If you can see a piece of metal that is shaking or coming loose, and it looks like it is coming over, my advice would be to get out of the path of the vehicle and call 911, said Conrad.

Investigators said they are still searching for the driver of the dump truck, but that the driver may not have even realized a piece of his truck broke off.

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