Tanker crashes, leaks diesel fuel on Loveland Pass
LOVELAND PASS ” A tanker truck hauling 7,200 gallons of diesel plowed through a guardrail and rolled 250 feet down an embankment on Highway 6 Friday morning, spilling about two-thirds of its load, said Rachel Flood, the public affairs coordinator for the Lake Dillon and Snake River fire departments.
The driver was seriously injured and airlifted to a Denver hospital.
The accident occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Friday morning at mile marker 222, just above Arapahoe Basin ski area.
Colorado State Patrol (CSP) officers quickly closed the highway and hazmat teams from CSP and the Snake River Fire Department arrived to assess any possible danger from the leak of about 4,800 gallons.
By midmorning, CSP had opened up the road enough to let people into A-Basin, but the highway above the ski area was not expected to be reopened until this morning.
CSP Cpt. Ron Prater said the tanker swerved off the right side of the road while attempting to negotiate a lefthand curve, separating the tractor and trailer and throwing the driver 70 feet from the truck.
“This was a very devastating type of accident. There’s a lot of damage to the rig, the driver was fortunately ejected, but has very serious injuries,” Prater said.
Because of the steep, slippery slope, rescuers had to set up a rope system to get down to the victim, who is in his mid to late thirties, said Lauri Mignone, public information officer for Summit County Ambulance Service.
The driver, who worked for the Minnesota based Cenex Harvest States, was airlifted by Flight for Life to the St. Anthony Central hospital in Denver with serious head injuries, Prater said.
The U.S. Forest Service is responsible for determining the environmental and wildlife consequences from the spill because it manages the public land.
District Ranger Rick Newton of the Dillon Ranger District said it was early to tell Friday what the environmental impacts would be, but said his department is working with an environmental cleanup agency to figure out what’s at stake.
Flood remained hopeful Friday that the damage will be minimal.
“It’s not a high concern at this point because of where the scene is located. (The diesel) is soaking into the ground and doesn’t look like it will reach a waterway,” Flood said.
Emergency crews worked most of the day Friday to contain the fuel and dam areas to make sure the diesel didn’t trickle down to the highway below.
Meanwhile, a clean-up contractor took care of offloading and recovering the tanker.
Prater said police are investigating several causes for the accident, including brake failure and speeding. He said the roads were dry Friday morning, but the driver may have been going too fast for that specific section of highway.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 229 or at email@example.com
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