"It will be a difficult situation replacing him," Palma said Wednesday. "... Ron was probably the best thin-film technical (expert) with Guardian."
Laird, 37, from Dexter, Mich., was a senior staff scientist in the Sputtered Film Research product development group at the Guardian Science and Technology Center in Carleton, Mich. He was in town with about 10 other Guardian representatives from around the country comparing samples of coated glass manufactured here and in Geneva, Palma said. He had arrived Sunday night, and was returning Tuesday afternoon to D/FW airport by car with David Maikowski of Plymouth, Mich. The two were to catch a plane and return to Michigan, Palma said.
In Rice, traffic in a construction zone near FM 1603 had come to a stop, and an 18-wheeler driven by Efrain Rivero of Amarillo slammed into the back of the car -- driven by Maikowski, and forced it under an 18-wheeler trailer in front of it, crushing a portion of the roof in and likely killing Laird instantly, emergency officials at the scene said.
Investigating Department of Public Safety Trooper Carlon Stapleton said Wednesday Interstate 45 will be shut down at some point next week so troopers can determine Rivero's speed through a series of tests. Evidence will then be turned over to the District Attorney's office, which could take the case to a Navarro County grand jury.
"Right now, it looks like a failure to control speed," Stapleton said. "The speedometer (on Rivero's truck) was stuck on 65."
Laird is survived by a wife and two children, ages 8 and 6, one of his supervisors said in a release.
He had 15 U.S patents issued or pending, Palma said, a testament to his expertise.
Palma said he spoke with Maikowski's family Wednesday, and he is recuperating at Harris Methodist Hospital.
"Dave has a broken shoulder and will probably have surgery on it," Palma said. "The rest of his body is in shock from the bruises, but there were no internal injuries or broken bones."
Palma said Guardian officials at the accident scene Tuesday were also from Michigan and in town as part of the product examination. They were minutes behind Maikowski and Laird and were also returning home. Guardian has a local helicopter, and often flies visitors from D/FW and back at their request. Palma said others do opt to drive, though.
"This a big loss for us," Palma said. "... Ron was a quiet guy. He spent most of his time thinking.
"I imagine his (home plant) cohorts are in a state of shock. You don't expect to not have a coworker come back."
Funeral arrangements for Laird are pending, but Palma said Corsicana's Guardian would be represented.