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Shivering Chevy

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Divers, tow truck drivers and search and rescue personnel teamed up Thursday to pull the wrecked hulk of a red Chevy Z71 pickup truck from the muddy waters of the Colorado River. The truck wound up in the river after a 47-year-old New Castle woman lost control during a snow storm Sunday morning as she approached Glenwood Springs on eastbound Interstate 70. According to a Colorado State Patrol accident report, the woman was attempting to pass two cars shortly after 10:30 a.m. Sunday when she lost control of her truck in the slushy road conditions, spun around, vaulted the guardrail and flew through the air. The State Patrol reported that at some point the woman was ejected and landed in the river, separate from the truck.The woman was able to swim to the north shore of the river, where Glenwood Springs Fire Department crews assisted her up the steep embankment. They took her to Valley View Hospital for unspecified injuries and she was released by Thursday. But there was still the problem of the submerged truck, which lay at the bottom of the murky Colorado River at least 50 feet down the steep embankment. Around 9 a.m. Thursday under a cloudy and rainy sky, the team of D & R Commercial Diving of Fruita, Car and Truck Services (C.A.T.S.) of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County Search and Rescue and the Mesa County Technical Rescue Team set out to bring the truck back up to the highway.Once cones were set out blocking the eastbound right lane of I-70 and the site was secured, all eyes were on diver Darren Cook. He had to swim around in the supposed location of the truck and feel around until he found it. “When it’s this size, hopefully you’ll just bump into it because everything’s black water and everything’s Braille,” Cook said. After about 10 minutes of searching, Cook found the truck about 12 feet off the bank and felt around to determine its position in the water. “Basically I just bumped into it,” the 15-year veteran diver said. Once he located the truck, the crew took tow straps down to the side of the river so Cook could disappear into the fast-moving current and rig a strap onto the front axle.A steel cable was then lowered from a tow arm, flared out from the back of the tow truck, into the river and fastened onto the thick tow strap. Bubbles surfaced from time to time as Cook worked underwater and about 10 minutes later, at 11:30 a.m., Cook surfaced to let everyone know the truck was secured.It wasn’t an unusual circumstance for the dive team.”We normally work in zero visibility,” said Ted Parker of D & R Diving.Little by little, the truck was dragged up the bank and eventually it sat parallel with the highway, but on the other side of the newly-repaired guardrail. “This is where we look really smart, or really stupid,” said C.A.T.S. tow truck driver Will Hammer, as he and his crew readied the truck to be lifted over the guardrail.The truck dragged a bit as it was heaved over the guardrail, but after a few minutes, the tow truck lowered the damaged pickup onto the breakdown lane, so it could be loaded on another flatbed tow truck. “We damaged Adam’s rail just a little bit, but we have the technology to repair it,” Hammer said of CDOT maintenance foreman Adam Padilla’s repaired guardrail.Many in the recovery crews were amazed that the driver suffered only minor injuries. “It’s just a by-God miracle that nobody got injured in this thing,” Hammer said. “Just a miracle.”Contact Greg Mass: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.com


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