Multiple fatalities after tractor-trailer slams into traffic near Denver
Multiple people were killed Thursday near Denver after a tractor-trailer roared down a hill and into a traffic jam, incinerating a dozen cars and three trucks in a chain-reaction fireball.
The aftermath left a smoldering apocalyptic stretch of highway in Lakewood, Colorado, with towering orange flames belching columns of black smoke.
One truck was torched through to the engine block. Cars sat in ashen ruins. A pile of lumber was scattered about the roadside, much of it untouched by flames.
Another incident had set the stage for the catastrophe on Interstate 70, authorities said. It was shortly before 5 p.m. rush hour, and a collision up the road had brought traffic nearly to a standstill.
The truck slammed into the jam, “causing a very big chain-reaction crash that ignited and started a fire,” Lakewood Police spokesman Ty Countryman said at a news conference, describing the scene as “devastation.”
There were “multiple fatalities,” and six people – including the tractor-trailer driver – were taken to the hospital for treatment, Countryman said. Local media reported Friday that some victims may still be in their cars.
Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the collision on Thursday night, he said. It was unclear if any of the truck’s hauls contributed to the size of the blaze.
Video taken around the time of the crash showed a semi barreling down the interstate at high speed as traffic around the truck lurches forward.
“All the cars were stopped; it was a traffic jam. And then this semi truck … sped by, going, it must have been over 60 mph, 80 mph, out of control down the emergency lane,” said Joshua McCutchen, whose dash cam seems to have captured the truck zooming past him.
McCutchen posted video of the semi along with scenes of the aftermath on his YouTube channel, Burger Planet.
The truck “scared the bejeebies out of me,” McCutchen said on a second video he posted on his channel. “And then I just see this huge explosion and fire and smoke coming from the other side of the overpass.”
Countryman said he was aware of bystander videos, though he said authorities were not ready to say that the truck was “out of control.” The driver was the apparent wood hauler, he said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation said a bridge over the crash site sustained significant fire damage. The interstate was also damaged by the heat. Traffic remained closed in both directions Friday near the scene, police said, as the investigation continued.
West Metro Fire raced to the scene to extinguish the flames and dispatched drones to assess the area. The fire had been put out by then, the department said on Twitter. But heat signatures still glowed bright red and orange on their infrared camera.