'Horrific accident'

Crash on U.S. Highway 40 kills two

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— It was, as one Colorado State Patrol Sgt. put it, the worst crash site he has seen.

A Wednesday night crash on U.S. Highway 40 left two people dead, almost unrecognizable wreckage from a high-speed collision, a fire to be contained, and the highway's closure for more than 15 hours.

"I've been a trooper for 10 years : and this is by far the most devastating crash I've ever seen," State Patrol Sgt. Chad Dunlap said. "I don't mean devastating in terms of injuries or the fatalities. I mean the crash as a whole. I mean the damage, the severity of the heat involved with the fires."

Names of the two victims have not been released.

"We don't know names for sure," Dunlap said. "They're going to have to use dental records to ID the people for sure."

The crash occurred at 8:43 p.m. near mile marker 11, just east of Dinosaur. Alcohol is suspected as being a contributing factor, according to a State Patrol report.

A Ford F-150 hauling a camper trailer was headed eastbound, traveling partially in the westbound lane.

It collided with a Kenworth semi-tractor, belonging to BTI, which was driving westbound. The Kenworth was hauling a tanker, owned by Praxair, which had a full load of compressed carbon dioxide.

Both vehicles were apparently driving at or around the 65 mile per hour speed limit at the time of the crash, Dunlap said.

The Ford was pushed backward and came to rest in the middle of the roadway. The Kenworth veered to the left and began to rotate counterclockwise. The Kenworth and its tanker rolled 3/4 times onto its left side.

The tanker was punctured. Both vehicles caught fire.

The fire spread across "both lanes" of the highway, "as well as the grass shoulder on the south side of the highway," Dunlap said.

The Moffat County HazMat team responded to the accident at the request of the Colorado State Patrol HazMat, which had a longer response time than Moffat County. Colorado State Patrol HazMat relieved Moffat County HazMat once they arrived.

"It was a pretty horrific accident," said Dennis Jones, a HazMat technician with Moffat County HazMat. "Everything was on fire."

The crash scene left little for investigators to determine the make of the vehicles, Dunlap said.

"The only way we could identify (the Ford) was the tailgate," he said. "To look at the wreckage, you would have no idea what that pile of metal was. It was obliterated beyond recognition from the collision and the fire. The semi is the same thing."

The crash closed U.S. Highway 40 from the time of the crash until noon Thursday.

The State Patrol is investigating the crash.

The Moffat County Coroner's Office is investigating the victims' identifications. Names will be released pending notification of the family.

Moffat County HazMat, Colorado State Patrol HazMat, The Rangely Fire Department, Maybell Fire Department and Artesia Fire Department responded to the scene.

Jerry Raehal can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 204, or jraehal@craigdailypress.com.

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