Semi hauling wrecked cars crashes on I-70
SUMMIT COUNTY – The carcasses of dozens of cars, all mangled and flattened beyond recognition, pockmarked the median and both lanes of Interstate 70 near Silverthorne late Friday night. It was a sight that initially made the first people who got to the accident site weak-kneed with horror.
“My heart sank when I saw that first car,” said Silverthorne Police Sgt. Mark Hanschmidt.
Authorities soon realized the cars were previously-wrecked and crushed vehicles the truck driver was hauling when he crashed. The driver, who was traveling with a child and a woman, lost control of his westbound rig as he reached the bottom of the tunnel descent just east of the Silverthorne exit. He crashed into the median, spewing a virtual graveyard of cars onto the road and median behind him.
The cab of the semi landed in one lane of eastbound I-70, the still-connected empty trailer across the median behind him. The driver and one of his passengers were injured, but no one was killed in the accident.
The crash closed Interstate 70 in both directions for about three hours, from 10:15 p.m. Friday to about 1 a.m. Saturday morning. It was the second time in less than 24 hours the highway was closed because of a semi crash.
Truckdriver Chris Cade, who was hauling a load of Fed Ex packages east to Denver, was one of the first people at the scene of Friday night’s accident.
Cade got to the driver before rescuers arrived and saw the man hunched over the steering wheel with blood covering his face.
“I can’t believe the guy’s alive,” said Cade, a Glenwood Springs resident who regularly drives his truck from Glenwood to Denver.
Emergency crews cut off the driver’s side door to get the man out of the cab. The young girl also riding in the cab was the man’s niece, other truckdrivers said, though they weren’t sure what the woman’s relationship was to the driver.
Some of the travelers waiting in cars on the closed lanes of westbound I-70 wandered down to the crash site, gasping in shock at the sight of the twisted vehicles.
“”Oh God’ – that was my first thought,” said Denver’s Mario Rueda. “Then we started to figure it out.”
Authorities spent more than an hour photographing the wreckage, trying to re-create the incident to determine its cause.
“Our operating theory is speed,” said Colorado State Patrol Cpt. Ron Prater.
Plows then pushed the debris into the median so officials could reopen the interstate.
I-70 was closed in both directions late Thursday morning after a tanker rolled off the highway near Copper Mountain, spilling gasoline from its ruptured tank and creating a potentially hazardous situation. Westbound I-70 opened at about 11 p.m. Thursday, and the eastbound lanes reopened a few hours earlier.
The incidents anger Prater, who said only hours before Friday night’s crash that he feels truckers have no idea the impact such accidents have, and suggested they be held to a higher standard of accountability.
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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