Tracy Maurer was supposed to visit New Orleans' Tulane University to see her daughter graduate in May. Instead, she'll be planning a funeral for Margaret "Meg" Maurer, per KSTP. The 21-year-old from Forest Lake, Minn., was killed at a highway rest stop in Mississippi on Tuesday in what authorities describe as a freak accident. A tractor-trailer driving past the rest stop on Interstate 10 near Gautier lost a set of rear dual tires, apparently due to equipment failure, reports ABC News. The tires, bolted together and weighing some 500 pounds, traveled 850 feet over a median and highway lanes before hitting Maurer, who was walking in the rest stop parking lot with friends, according to the Gautier Police Department. The ecology and evolutionary biology major, on her first spring break road trip, died at the scene.
Police said the driver of the tractor-trailer is not suspected of wrongdoing and stopped soon after the tires came loose. "I really want to be angry at somebody, but I can't be," Maurer's mom tells KSTP. "It's absolutely a random, freaky thing." Tulane President Mike Fitts says Maurer was "extraordinarily gifted" and planned to "pursue a career in scientific illustration—a field that combined her skill as a scientist, her incredible artistic talent and her love of nature." Professor Thomas Sherry even enlisted Maurer to draw illustrations for his book on tropical birds, eight of which were completed before her death; the Biloxi Sun Herald shares two sketches. "At the very least, we have this incredible memorial to her," Sherry tells ABC. "These were not only accurate, realistic, biological illustrations … These were works of art." (An NYPD maintenance worker died in the same way.)