Winter roads, speed cause tractor-trailer to overturn

A tractor-trailer truck carrying flammable fuel wrecked Monday in Craig, shutting down parts of Colorado Highway 13 and U.S. Highway 40 for four hours.

Officers from the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Department, Colorado State Patrol and Craig Fire/Rescue spent much of the day in the snow trying to defuse the situation.

The truck, with tandem trailers, was loaded with hydro carbon liquid fuel, more commonly referred to as drip gas. Drip gas is a petroleum product that is highly flammable, according to Craig/Fire Rescue Chief Roy Mason.

"We could have had a nasty fire with the potential of a lot of property damage," said Mason.

The driver, Jacob Workman, 27, of Craig, was headed east-bound on Highway 40 into Craig and attempted to turn south onto Highway 13 when he lost control of the truck.

The rear tanker trailer the truck was hauling disconnected from the rig and turned onto its side about 100 feet from the intersection. There were no injuries reported.

While the tanker was not leaking when emergency officials arrived, the wreck did pose a difficult situation for authorities. Before the tanker could be removed, its cargo had to be transferred to another tanker due to the potential for fire. Authorities did not want to risk moving the tanker while it was still loaded with the gas. According to Mason, the transfer was the most dangerous part of the clean-up.

"I think that is the most critical stage," said Mason. "There is a real potential for a possible leak or fire during that process, but fortunately the owner and driver of the truck knew what they were doing."

There was a slight leak during the transfer, but it was quickly contained and cleaned up by Craig Fire/Rescue and the Craig Road and Bridge Department.

Once the cargo was removed, a crane and a wrecker were brought in from Steamboat Springs to upright the tanker and remove it from the road. The intersection was shut down for more than four hours, according to the Craig Police Department.

Weather played a role in the accident, according to Colorado State Patrol trooper James Womack, who helped in the accident investigation.

"The right-turn lane was snow-packed and the truck started to slide; when it hit the south-bound lane of Highway 13 there was more friction because instead of the snow pack there was water and slush," said Womack. "The friction caused the trailer to roll onto its left side. Fortunately, the truck didn't roll because it had a lower center of gravity."

Womack believes weather may have caused the accident, but it also helped make the scene safer.

"It is a catch-22," said Womack. "The weather caused the accident, but the wet, cold roads may have prevented the accident from being more serious because of the hazardous material."

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