RANGELY I Three weather-related accidents in fewer than 24 hours caused damage to vehicles and injury to some occupants during the first substantial snowfall of the season Dec. 25 and 26.
At approximately 11:50 a.m. on Christmas, emergency personnel responded to a one-vehicle rollover at mile marker 7.7 on Highway 64 west of Rangely.
Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrod Lang said the driver of a white 2004 Ford F-250 with Utah license plates was traveling east when he attempted to pass a bulk oil haul tanker on the straight stretch of road just past Mellon Hill. He never completed the maneuver.
“With road conditions the way they were, he lost control of the vehicle,” Lang said. “The back tires lost traction and spun out, and he rolled the vehicle twice off of an embankment.”
The truck came to rest approximately 55 feet off the roadway, Lang said. Icy, snow-packed conditions were a primary factor in the crash.
“Usually, when … we haven’t had a winter like we normally have, people are still driving like it’s spring; the roads aren’t that bad yet,” Lang said. “It just takes a little bit of time to adjust. It happens every year with our first snow. Accidents start happening and then people start driving accordingly.”
The driver sustained a possible concussion and was taken to Rangely District Hospital for evaluation before being released.
Approximately six inches of snow falling Thursday prevented the Ford’s removal from the ditch until the weekend. The tanker the Ford attempted to pass was not involved in the accident, Lang said.
On their way to Thursday morning’s rollover, first responders came upon another weather-related accident two miles east of the first crash, at Highway 64’s mile marker 9.9. After ensuring the driver and passenger in a blue 2008 Chevy Silverado, also from Utah, were uninjured, personnel went on to the rollover before returning to the non-injury crash.
“Both trucks had adequate snow tires on them; the Chevy appeared to have fairly new tires on it,” Lang said. “Both were driving a little too fast for the conditions and lost control of their vehicles.”
The Silverado, also traveling east, had tried to slow down for a vehicle in front of it when the truck lost traction and spun across both lanes. Both passenger-side tires were blown as the truck came to rest in the ditch.
Occupants in both crashes were wearing seatbelts, Lang said, which probably prevented further injury on roads primed for incidents since snow began falling early Christmas morning and continued well into the evening.
“CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the county had guys out all day long,” Lang said. “It was just hard for them to keep up.”
Following Thursday’s accidents, the roads around Rangely wreaked more havoc with travelers. On Friday at around 10:20 a.m., emergency workers responded to a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of Highway 139 and County Road 116 (mile marker 53).
A southbound tanker vehicle had slowed at the intersection to turn onto the county road when an SUV following the tanker collided with it. The SUV was moving at approximately 40 miles per hour on impact, Lang said.
“When the tanker slowed, the car following it didn’t leave enough room and couldn’t slow at the same rate as the tanker,” he said. “It collided with the rear DOT bumper of the tanker truck.”
The driver and passenger of the SUV suffered some injuries when the airbags deployed, while the vehicle sustained “very significant front-end damage.” The tanker’s trailer had minimal damage, Lang said.
Rangely Rural Fire Protection District (RRFPD) firefighters shut down the highway’s northbound lane and alternated traffic flow for approximately an hour as sheriff’s office personnel completed an investigation and responders moved the vehicle.
For drivers getting used to traveling snow-packed, icy roads again this season, Lang said minor adjustments could mean the difference between a damage- or injury-causing accident and safe arrival to a destination.
“The No. 1 thing is to watch your speed,” Lang said. “Because the speed limit is 65 miles an hour doesn’t mean you have to travel 65 miles per hour. Travel a safe speed and keep enough distance for a reaction gap so you can slow your vehicle. Your vehicle will tend to travel twice as far on icy roads as it will on pavement.”
Drivers also need to pay closer attention than usual to vehicles around them and to wildlife on or near roadsides, he said.