May’s big rig rollover cost Silverthorne thousands of dollars — now, the town is seeking ways to recover its losses
Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been updated to correct the kind of vehicle involved in the crash.
Thousands of dollars in costs to local municipalities and a criminal charge of reckless endangerment resulted from May’s overturned semitractor-trailer in Silverthorne. To local authorities, dealing with the public safety concerns and resulting emulsified oil spill meant sending a message, but the driver’s company is asking for understanding for the driver’s mistake.
The total cost of clean up for the town of Silverthorne was $7,425.70, Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor said. That tally was billed to the towns’ and county’s designated emergency response authority, Summit Fire & EMS. The fire district may, in turn, bill the responsible trucking company’s insurance for the cost, Minor said.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office did not bill the incident to Summit Fire & EMS, Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons reported.
The crash and clean up caused nearly 10 hours of traffic delays around Exit 205 on Interstate 70 in Silverthorne, lasting until about 7 p.m. The crash occurred around 9 a.m that morning.
“Our intent is to seek reimbursement for our taxpayers’ expenses,” Minor said. Not only did the accident cost the town money, it also cost its employees’ time.
Lopez drove for JSS Logistics, LLC, based out of Easton, Pennsylvania. The company has only had one crash in the two years prior to Aug. 29, according to records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
JSS Logistics CEO Richard de Leon said he was notified by Colorado State Patrol the day of the accident and was flying to Denver within two hours of the call. His company also suspended all its operations the day of the accident, he said.
He said his company’s insurance group, Acuity, had been in contact with the local parties involved. Acuity issued a check to compensate for local storage of the truck and the damage to the tanker and its product, de Leon said.
“They really couldn’t have been better,” de Leon said. “I see now why their policies are so expensive.”
The driver, Antonio Ramos Lopez Jr., was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor charge, according to a summons received from Summit County Court. Lopez’s first summons date was July 13, and he had an arraignment hearing scheduled for Aug. 24. Lopez is listed on court documents as a resident of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Reckless endangerment carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months imprisonment. His next court date is an arraignment set for Oct. 5.
Lopez is a good kid, de Leon said, and it was reportedly his first time on the route.
“There’s nothing to make an example of. It’s just an accident. It happens,” he said.
Minor said the driver likely lost control of the semi’s brakes while descending from Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels. A sign just before Exit 205 asks truck drivers who have lost their brakes to remain on the interstate.
After driving down from the tunnels on his way to Silverthorne, de Leon said the signage instructing drivers to remain on I-70 if they lost their brakes was “clear as day” to him, but he could see a driver missing the signs in a moment of panic.
Video of the crash shows smoke billowing from the semitractor-trailer’s wheel wells as it exited I-70 at Exit 205. It turned north onto Colorado Highway 9 before it jackknifed and flipped on its side. A northbound car is seen yielding to the semi tractor-trailer as it attempts to merge onto Highway 9.
The man who filmed the crash while following the semitractor-trailer claims the driver passed every runaway truck ramp as it descended from Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
The semitractor-trailer spilled emulsified oil onto the road. While it was not carrying a hazmat load, authorities treated it like a hazmat spill due to its proximity to the Blue River, Minor said.
The semitractor-trailer was also able to travel through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and subsequently down I-70 because it was not carrying a hazmat load.
A similar situation occurred less than seven months prior. On Oct. 13, 2021, a westbound tractor-trailer lost its brakes while descending from the tunnel before taking Exit 205 on I-70. That tractor-trailer hit a Jeep as it careened over a barricade and flipped on its side in the southbound lanes of Highway 9.
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