Canyon crash backs up I-70 for hours
Post Independent Staff
An early-morning truck crash that sprayed glass and fuel onto Interstate 70 caused off-and-on closures of the eastbound highway through Glenwood Canyon Thursday.
The truck’s driver, who is from Mexico, was uninjured, but faces four traffic citations, the Colorado State Patrol reported.
He was hauling 6-by-8-foot sheets of glass that fell onto the highway and broke.
“I guess the amount of cargo was just an overwhelming factor” in slowing the reopening of the canyon, said CSP Sgt. David Kucera.
The accident occurred at about 2:51 a.m. at milemarker 123.5, between the Shoshone and Hanging Lake exits, when the semitrailer rolled onto its side. The Colorado Department of Transportation, aided by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, closed the eastbound highway at Glenwood Springs and advised motorists to detour around the canyon via Rifle, Craig and Steamboat Springs, and back to I-70 at Wolcott.
Meanwhile, CSP’s hazardous material unit was called out because 50 to 100 gallons of fuel may have spilled from the vehicle’s fuel tanks. The CSP determined that no fuel reached the Colorado River.
Crews were able to open a lane of eastbound traffic at about 6:12 a.m. to accommodate the morning rush hour. Kucera said they then had to close both lanes again briefly to get the vehicle back on its wheels and to better clean one of the lanes before reopening it.
Then, another semitrailer had mechanical problems and stalled around noon or 1 p.m., again briefly closing the one open eastbound lane.
“If anything could go wrong in that little area, unfortunately everything did,” Kucera said.
Officials hoped to have both lanes of eastbound I-70 open by early Thursday evening.
The CSP identified the driver as Epifanio Quirino-Figueroa, 36. Kucera said the truck is registered to a company under the name of Juan Ramirez, of El Centro, Calif.
Quirino-Figueroa was cited for careless driving, spilling a load on the highway, driving without a valid driver’s license and driving a defective vehicle.
Kucera said the defective vehicle citation is still the subject of an active investigation. The State Patrol is continuing to examine parts on the vehicle and he said he could not elaborate on the reasons for that charge at this time.
As for the driver’s license, free-trade laws allow Mexican drivers to operate in the United States, if properly licensed, Kucera said. He said authorities are still determining whether Quirino-Figueroa was licensed at all, or lacked the required commercial driver’s license endorsement.
He said the truck company could face charges associated with any improper licensing of the driver. It’s likely the federal Department of Transportation or California Highway Patrol would audit the company in a case such as this, he said.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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