Truck wreck spills candy bars down hillside next to interstate
SILVERTHORNE – A semitrailer rolled down the embankment of the lower runaway truck ramp between the Eisenhower Tunnel and Silverthorne on westbound Interstate 70 Tuesday. The truck was carrying Snickers and Milky Way candy bars.
Firefighters from Lake Dillon and Snake River fire rescue teams responded to the accident around 9:30 a.m. after the driver, Dan Thompson of Emporia, Kan., used the truck ramp when his brakes failed.
Thompson suffered minor head injuries. Colorado State Patrol (CSP) officials said he likely would be released Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses said the truck was traveling about 85 mph as it came out of the Eisenhower Tunnel and that the driver didn’t adjust his speed for the 7 percent downhill grade. Thompson told CSP Capt. Ron Prater he tried to slow down, but his brakes burned out, and he opted to take the emergency off-ramp.
According to Lake Dillon assistant fire chief Jeff Berino, the semi made it about halfway up the runaway truck ramp before it slipped 50 feet over the edge, snapping off lodgepole pine trees in its path.
“The trees caught him,” Prater said. “If the trees hadn’t been there, he’d have been on the interstate.”
“It was a good thing was he went onto the truck ramp,” said CSP trooper Valerie Silva. “That was smart. He could have crashed on the interstate.”
The impact also broke the semitrailer in half, spilling scores of cases of candy bars down the hill and shearing off the top of the cab.
Firefighters worked for almost an hour to get the driver out of the cab. Rescue efforts were complicated by the steep hillside, damage to the vehicle and by the driver himself, who weighed more than 300 pounds.
Berino said 10 of the 20 firefighters enlarged the crushed doorway to remove Thompson, then placed him in a basket and slowly lowered him to the interstate, about 350 feet below.
Although the truck’s diesel fuel tanks were severely dented, no fuel spilled, Berino said.
“We had a lot of things go in our favor,” Berino said. “We had good weather, it happened during daylight hours, and we had a good cooperative effort with all the firefighters. Also, there were no hazardous materials on board, just Snickers and Milky Way bars.”
Almost all of those who responded to the call were attending a training fire at the old Church Camp property northwest of Farmer’s Korner and were able to reach the scene quickly.
Summit County Ambulance personnel took Thompson to Summit Medical Center. Dillon Towing employees spent the rest of the afternoon unloading boxes of candy bars from the truck and off the hillside and taking the damaged boxes to the county landfill. State patrol officers cited Thompson for careless driving.
Prater said this wreck was the fifth in 10 days involving semis on the interstate. State patrol and other emergency personnel responded to two calls near Copper Mountain April 23 and another in the same location April 24. A fourth semi, which was carrying crushed vehicles, crashed near Dillon Valley April 25.
State patrol, fire and ambulance personnel are, however, used to going to semi wrecks in which unusual merchandise spills on the highway.
“We’ve seen pinto beans, lobster, cattle, logs, steaks – virtually everything,” Berino said. “But this was the first Milky Way and Snickers incident.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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