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June 1, 2007
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Semi-truck nearly disintegrates in I-70 accident

Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY " A semi-truck traveling on I-70 late Thursday night crashed with such force that the truck nearly disintegrated and sent wreckage flying over a half-mile radius of the accident.

"This is one of the worst accidents involving vehicular damage I have witnessed in over 27 years of response to Interstate accidents," Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Berino said.

The accident occurred at about 11:20 p.m. on Thursday at milemarker 208 in the westbound lanes of the interstate. Debris was scattered all over the westbound lanes and was even propelled over the median into the eastbound lanes of I-70.

No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

The truck was in distress for 1,400 feet before crashing just below the lower runaway truck ramp, and the driver, identified as Oscar Munos-Gurierrez, 32, of Houston, Tex., did not appear to have attempted to use the ramp, said Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater.

Prater described the accident as "amazing tribute to driver error" as Munos-Gurierrez headed down from the Eisenhower Tunnel.

"The grade is posted, there are signs warning drivers, yet ... many of them refuse to choose an appropriate gear and drive at a safe speed down the grade," Prater said.

The State Patrol will be aggressively pursuing prosecution of the driver, likely for charges related to reckless driving, Prater said.

After the crash, Munos-Gurierrez managed to crawl out of the barely-there remains of the cab, according to a bystander, and was immediately treated for burns involving much of his upper body, Berino said.

He was taken to Summit Medical Center, then airlifted to University of Colorado at Denver Burn Center, where he was listed in fair condition as of Friday afternoon.

The tractor-trailer was hauling a load of large diameter pipe at the time of the accident. When it crashed, the diesel fuel ignited a large fire.

"The crew said they could see the glow of the fire from the Silverthorne exit," Berino said.

Firefighters used a foam and water mixture to douse the flames.

"We were fortunate that this occurred late at night when traffic was light or there may have been additional injuries," Berino said. "In addition, the ensuing fire may have started a wildfire had the conditions been drier."

Two police vehicles were damaged while responding to the accident and had to be towed from the scene. One car hit the truck's alternator, which had flown into the eastbound lanes of traffic, and a second vehicle suffered punctures to two of its tires from the debris.

The westbound lanes of the interstate were closed until 4:45 Friday morning while the accident scene was investigated and cleaned up.

Numerous emergency responders helped on the scene including Colorado State Patrol, Silverthorne Police Department, Dillon Police Department, Summit County Sheriff's Office, Summit County Ambulance Service and Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

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The Post Independent Updated Jun 1, 2007 03:44PM Published Jun 1, 2007 03:44PM Copyright 2007 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.