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Home > Topics > Safety
March 03, 2014

1 dead, dozens hurt in Colo. highway pileup

Thirty people were taken to three different hospital with injuries after the giant pileup

Daily Camera

BOULDER, Colo. — A woman was killed and 30 people were taken to three hospitals with injuries Saturday morning after a giant pileup on Interstate 25.

Denver police said 104 vehicles were involved in a string of accidents between Logan Street and University Boulevard that occurred as a heavy band of snow moved through town before 11 a.m.

The northbound interstate was closed for roughly five hours, reopening by 3:48 p.m.

Traffic was at a standstill for more than a mile after the crash. Nearby streets such as University Boulevard and Evans Avenue were bumper-to-bumper with diverted traffic.

Drivers and passengers who were not injured were put on an RTD bus to keep warm and give their reports to accident investigators. Some wrecked cars were towed to South High School.

Denver Health Medical Center reported on Twitter that 14 people were taken to Denver Health, four to St. Anthony Hospital and 12 to Swedish Medical Center.

Denver Health Chief Paramedic Scott Bookman said those taken to hospitals included adults and children. The name of the woman who died in the crash has not been released.

While investigators haven't officially disclosed the cause of the pileup, one driver caught in the mess believes it was avoidable.

"People were just driving too fast for conditions," said Darrell Barber, whose Chevy Tahoe was hit repeatedly during the chain of crashes. "It was totally preventable."

Barber was driving home with newly framed memorabilia for his wife's retirement party Saturday when he found himself in the middle of the pileup on northbound I-25 just south of Logan Street.

Alone in his Tahoe, Barber said he was driving below the speed limit behind an empty car-carrier trailer and amid slick road conditions.

"Brake lights started coming on and people weren't stopping," Barber said.

A tractor-trailer jackknifed a few cars ahead of him, Barber said, which led to collisions that would span about half a mile behind it seconds later.

"People in front of me started bouncing off each other and crashing," Barber said, recounting the initial wrecks near the Logan Street bridge. "By then I had stopped."

He was one of few drivers who was able to stop, he said. But stopping didn't mean he was safe.

First, a small sedan swiped his passenger side. He watched it slide on past and then checked his mirrors. In his left-side mirror, Barber said, he saw a flatbed tow truck attempt to avoid what was already a formidable wreck by turning into the far left passing lane.

The tow truck lost control and slid forward, slightly off kilter, until it met the rear of a blue Jeep.

Two cars following the truck slid behind it and wedged underneath its bed, Barber said. This tow-truck sandwich was directly outside his driver door.

Barber said he watched as the car that had been the first to hit the truck, a pea-green SUV, became inverted as more cars jammed in from behind.

"And that's when someone T-boned me on the driver's side," Barber said.

It was another small sedan, which swerved into him as its driver tried to avoid the tow-truck pileup.

It wasn't over. A silver SUV then rammed into his vehicle's rear end. It sent Barber's Tahoe flying forward about 40 feet, he said, landing at the rear of the car carrier.

Barber said he is a firefighter and he has responded to car pileups before. But, he said, he had never experienced one like Saturday's.

His wife and daughter picked him up around 2 p.m. at the Whole Foods store on Washington Street, where he had waited with the framed keepsakes that, as he did, somehow survived the wreck.

At the time of the crash, heavy snow was falling, but the snow basically stopped in Denver by noon. Overall, the National Weather Service reported final snow tallies for the metro area ranged from 0.75 to 1.5 inch.

Earlier, in the mountains, state officials closed westbound lanes of Interstate 70 at Silverthorne and Vail Pass after treacherous road conditions triggered numerous accidents Saturday morning.

I-70 reopened at Silverthorne about 10 a.m., but officials said the roads remained slow going. Vail Pass reopened about 1:45 p.m

"It's icy, it's snowpacked, it's drifting," said Mark Altman, spokesman for the CDOT. "There's poor visibility."

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said on Twitter at 10 a.m. that between 6 and 8 inches of snow had fallen between Vail Pass and Georgetown since 5 a.m.

Altman said people going into the mountains can expect "extreme" traffic delays.

In the mountains, CDOT instituted what it calls "wave escorts," in which troopers lead large lines of cars and trucks up the mountain and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. After one wave passes, an angled line of plows clear ice and snow before the next wave is cleared to go.

The waves, which ensure that traffic moves steadily up the mountain without starts and stops that lead to lengthy delays, were expected to continue well into the evening, transportation officials say. People should be prepared for stops in Silverthorne and Frisco until they become part of a wave of traffic.

Loveland Pass remains closed with no estimated time for reopening, according to a CDOT news release.

CDOT workers urged winter travelers to pack water, blankets, windshield wiper fluid, hand warmers and nonperishable food items in their vehicles.

In a statement, CDOT said it remained on full snow shift "with approximately 100 snowplows and four large tankers dispersing product and clearing the roadways of snow and ice. Crews will continue to work 12-hour shifts, around the clock until the roads are completely clear of snow and ice."

Copyright 2014 Daily Camera

McClatchy-Tribune News Service


All Rights Reserved

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