Independence Day weekend traffic accidents leave one dead |

Independence Day weekend traffic accidents leave one dead

Christine Ina Casillas
Fatality Traffic2 BH 7-2/Bret's Edit/I-70 Fatality Acc 7-2 BH

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Eagle County public safety officials have remained busy with multiple-car accidents along Interstate 70.

Traffic was backed up on the interstate west of Minturn for more than three hours Wednesday after two trucks collided, leaving one man dead.

At about 3:55 p.m., after a large utility truck stalled in the westbound lane of Interstate 70, just west of the Minturn exit at mile marker 170, a second truck rear-ended it, said Kathy Warren, spokeswoman with the Eagle River Fire Protection District.

“I think there was some confusion, with the diminishing lanes in the construction areas, that caused this accident,” Warren said.

The driver of the second truck, whose name has been withheld, died shortly after the accident, she said.

“Three or four bystanders pulled over the help the victim,” she said. “But after the ambulance district showed up and tried to resuscitate him, well, they couldn’t do anything further to help him. The other guy was able to walk away from the accident.”

The victim was trapped inside the truck, she said, and had to be pulled out from it. No other injuries were reported in that accident.

I-70 closed

Both directions of the interstate were closed Wednesday for more than three hours because of the fatality, backing eastbound traffic from Eagle-Vail to west Edwards. Travelers were rerouted through Avon, taking U.S. Highway 6 through the new The Home Depot road at Post Boulevard.

“There was nothing we could do about the traffic. It’s just one of those things. It’s always sad to not be able to help the victims,” Warren said. “We want everyone to be able to walk away safely, but sometimes the situations are out of our control.”

Wolcott accident

Three people were injured late Tuesday in a rollover accident on the interstate near Wolcott, closing the left, westbound lane for about an hour.

“The top half of the car was sheered off,” said Joe Tierney, a local who witnessed the accident. “When I drove by it looked like the car was squashed in half. It was the ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It was the worst accident I’ve seen in a long time.”

At 6:15 p.m., Tuesday, rescue crew responded to a call about a rollover accident on the westbound lane of I-70 with a sports utility vehicle on its top in the left lane and one passenger car right-side-up in the median, she said.

Witnesses said the passenger car crossed the median in the opposite direction and hit the SUV.

“The car was on its top, and it was completely compressed,” Warren said. “There was little or no room to get to the patients.”

Two people were removed from the SUV with “fairly serious injuries,” Warren said. The occupant of the passenger car had been able to get out, but the two in the SUV were trapped. All three victims were transported to the Vail Valley Medical Center, one with serious injuries.

“Jaws of Life’

It took about an hour for the rescue crews from the Eagle River Fire Protection District and Greater Eagle Fire District, using cutters and spreaders, also known as “Jaws of Life,” to free the two trapped people in the overturned SUV, she said.

“The rescue crew had to use air bags to elevate the car as they cut it in order to get the victims out,” she said. “There was a lot of cutting and crying.”

Because the SUV was completely compressed, the crew looked at what was left of the car, checking to see what exactly impaled the victims, she said.

“We have to be careful with accidents like that and find out what part is injured for fear of serious spinal and neck injuries,” she said.

The roads were clear, she said.

“It’s a frequent area for accidents,” she added.

The Colorado State Patrol is investigating both accidents.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

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