Vail Pass crash ‘horrid,’ tow truck driver says
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” An estimated 70-car pileup that closed Interstate 70 for a total of about nine hours Monday killed a Longmont resident.
The minivan that Lance Melting, 39, was driving slammed into then went under a jackknifed semi’s trailer, the Colorado State Patrol said. He died of head injuries, Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said.
Other drivers crashed into the semi and mini van because of poor visibility, creating a chain reaction, the State Patrol said.
Another accident occurred a few minutes before when semi jackknifed and another semi ran into it, causing a chain reaction crash that resulted in several injuries, the State Patrol said.
“That’s probably been the largest (pileup) that I’ve seen,” said Cpl. Larry Graves of the Colorado State Patrol.
Heavy snow had started falling before the crash, and a law that requires truckers to use chains in poor weather was not in effect in the west lanes at the time of the crashes, which extended at least a half-mile, Graves said.
However, truckers are only required to use chains when they are going uphill, not when descending Vail Pass, Graves said.
The driver of the semi in the first accident was ticketed, though Graves did not know for what. Troopers are still investigating the other crash in which Melting was killed, Graves said.
“We’re still looking into charges,” he said.
So many cars were crushed and overturned that West Vail Shell employee Chris Cooke was amazed that there weren’t more deaths.
Cooke was one of the first tow truck drivers to arrive at the crash and he helped tow more than a dozen of the cars in the pileup, he said.
“It was horrid,” said Cooke, who has worked as a tow truck driver for 16 years in several large cities. “It was the worst wreck I’ve ever scene in my life.”
The State Patrol does not know how many people were injured, but hospital spokespeople say 20 people were taken to hospitals in Summit and Eagle counties. Six of those people are still in hospitals in Vail and Denver.
All but two of the 14 patients taken to Vail Valley Medical Center in the crash were treated and released from the hospital, said hospital spokesman Don Bishop. One man got surgery for a broken leg, and his condition was unknown. Another man was in fair condition, he said.
Of six patients taken to St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center near Frisco, two were treated and released Monday, hospital spokeswoman Bev Lilly said.
Lilly declined to give an update on the conditions of the other four people Tuesday, who were taken to Denver hospitals, but on Monday two women were in critical condition and a boy and a woman were in serious condition.
Around 20 to 30 cars were able to stop to avoid the crash, which Graves blamed on drivers going to fast.
A Colorado State trooper who was parked in a median saw drivers going 50 miles per hour or more before the crash, Graves said.
“Everybody was going extremely fast for the road conditions,” Graves said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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