5 seconds from death: Eyewitness to Glenwood Canyon rockslide recounts ordeal
February 5, 2019
His day and his drive had both already been long when, just after midnight Tuesday in Glenwood Canyon, “hell started to rain down” on Grand Junction resident Donny Logan.
Logan believes he was “the first one there and last one out” during a rockslide in Glenwood Canyon that closed Interstate 70 and diverted traffic through Craig Tuesday morning.
Up to 250 cubic yards of rock fell onto the westbound lane of I-70, with some boulders crashing through the guardrail, according to the Vail Daily.
“It’ll take about 30 dump truck loads to remove it all,” said Tracy Trulove, a spokesperson for Colorado Department of Transportation.
Logan’s wild ride
Logan works in the oil fields in Greeley.
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He had been in a Front Range hospital Monday and went to work after being discharged. He was sent home from the rig, however, due to a persistent problem with his appendix.
He left the rig about 7 p.m. and would have been home by 11 p.m., if not for an accident on Vail Pass that delayed his trip for several hours.
He was driving about 40 to 45 miles per hour on slick roads westbound through Glenwood Canyon just before midnight when his car started to get “pelted and rained on with rocks,” Logan said. “And the next thing I knew, there were boulders the size of trucks coming down around me.”
He recalled becoming hyper-focused, putting his car in reverse to back up “as far and fast” as he could.
“All I could think about was getting out of there to avoid getting smashed,” Logan said.
Once clear of the debris, he began flagging down other vehicles headed toward the rockslide.
“The other drivers and me noticed that the rocks went over the overpass and into the eastbound lane. We saw a car with flashers on that was pretty beat up. It looked to have been hit by one of the boulders that went over the interstate,” Logan said.
He didn’t immediately have cell service, but managed to get a signal to call 911 about 12:19 a.m. to report the rockslide and receive assistance.
Initially, CDOT reported there were no vehicles involved in the incident and no injuries.
During a 6 p.m. media briefing, Trulove was able to confirm that one vehicle traveling eastbound hit a rock and blew a tire. She said the information was not relayed during a crew change in the early hours.
She was unable to confirm Logan’s account.
Logan said he was uninjured in the incident. He shared a photograph and video of the immediate aftermath of the slide.
A four-hour detour
The first sign of trouble in the canyon occurred about 6:15 p.m. Monday, when a boulder came down in the westbound lane and Vail resident Bob Dorf’s car collided with it. Dorf escaped with minor injuries and his “excellent adventure” was reported by the Vail Daily.
About 6 hours later and further into the canyon, the cliff began its rapid slide toward Logan’s car.
At 1 a.m. CDOT issued its first notice via Twitter to alert the public that I-70 was closed in both directions through Glenwood Canyon with no determination of when the road would reopen.
After the debris was cleared, CDOT was able to temporarily open lanes, however, they were closed again throughout the afternoon to allow rockfall mitigation scaling operations to proceed along the cliff wall.
The damage to the road itself wasn’t that bad, Trulove said during a 4 p.m. briefing to the media.
Rock scaling was completed about 5:30 p.m., and Trulove said during her 6 p.m. media briefing that both eastbound lanes would be open within the hour. She added that the westbound lane was expected to reopen later Tuesday night, once the crane used for scaling was removed.
On Wednesday, contractors will consult and make a plan to repair 40 feet of parapet wall, 100 feet of bridge wall, and three to four impact craters, the last of which have been patched, but will require longer-term repairs. There was also barrier damage on the north side of the road.
“Please always check COTRIP.org for roadway conditions before heading out,” Truelove said.
During the closure, eastbound travelers were detoured through Craig, adding three to four hours to their trips.
‘Fast reflexes saved me’
Logan believes his car is totaled. It was towed back to the Grizzly Park rest area.
He said CDOT crews gave him a ride through to Glenwood Springs, where he was met by his wife, Holly Logan, a graduate of Hayden High School.
As for Logan, he’s home resting, awaiting a call from his insurance adjuster and giving thanks.
“I’m thankful to all the people who reached out to me and want to give a shoutout to my wife for coming out at 3 a.m. to pick me up. It was scary. Fast reflexes saved me,” Logan said. “I was cruising along, and the next thing I know, hell's raining down on me. I'm just happy I wasn't five seconds faster.”