Trucker's death haunts sister

'Instead of putting another family through it, he would take himself'

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— Wendell Dewane Grimm always told his family that if he was ever put in a position where his occupation put anyone in danger, he would take no chances and "take it himself."

Grimm, 43, died March 2 after an accident on Rabbit Ears Pass near milepost 141.

The Cheyenne, Wyo., man apparently lost control of a semitrailer pulling a flat bed trailer carrying cinder blocks.

The westbound truck went off the side of the road and then rolled one-and-a half times and slid about 140 feet. Grimm was pronounced dead at the scene.

Grimm's death marks the third time a truck driver has died on Rabbit Ears Pass in about a 12-month span.

It is also is the ninth fatality on the pass since 1998.

The crash is under investigation. Colorado State Trooper Brad Keadle believes the crash was caused by a number of circumstances including driving experience, speed and the truck's braking system.

"Why it happened the way it did, we may not fully know," Keadle said. "He was coming down too fast."

Keadle believes Grimm may have "glazed his brakes over."

"We have to determine if the brakes were working properly," he said.

"The brakes were not burned up, but were probably glazed over."

Keadle expects to wrap up the investigation sometime this week.

Brent Erickson, a driver for B&K Distributing, believes he would have been part of the accident had Grimm's skidding truck made a curve farther down the pass.

"If he would have made that corner, we would have been part of that wicked wreck," said Erickson, who was traveling eastbound with Jamey Dubs to Winter Park.

The loss of "Windy" has been a tough one for his family to cope with, but they do feel that Grimm did what he had to do, said Linda Savell, Grimm's older sister.

"It gave us great comfort to hear what happened," Savell said. "He always told us that during a wreck if he knew it was his choice between his life and someone else, he would take it himself.

"If those two men saw him, he saw them. He would do what it took to protect them. Instead of putting another family through it, he would take it himself."

This past Wednesday, Grimm was buried in his hometown of Cheyenne. Grimm was the third oldest out of six children by Wendell and Val Grimm. Grimm was named after his father. Ever since Savell, who is older than Grimm by about 22 months, could remember, her brother liked to be on the road.

"When we were growing up my parents had a friend who hauled cattle," she said. "Verne would come by and pick Windy up. He just loved being out on the road."

Grimm held numerous trucking jobs, which ranged from driving a wrecker to hauling mobile homes, gas and manure,

Savell said.

Grimm was also an avid race car fan and liked to hunt and fish.

Grimm had taken a hiatus from truck driving so he could take jobs that would keep him in Cheyenne. Grimm did this to raise his three daughters, who are now 22, 19 and 3.

"He took some time off to take care of the girls," Savell said. "He always wanted to get back into driving. As the girls got older, that became more apparent."

Grimm started working for Powers Masonry Supply in 1999. He worked in the retail department.

"We had a driver leave in late 1999," said Lynn Weberg, a manager for the supply company. "He wanted to take a step up and driving was a step up."

Grimm was happy to be back on the road, Savell said.

"He was real excited about driving again," she said.

Although Grimm had been driving for the company for almost a year, he had made only one trip to Steamboat Springs. During that trip, Grimm was with another driver, Weberg said.

"It was his first trip over there by himself," he said.

It was Weberg who received the telephone call that Friday morning notifying him of the accident.

"It was surreal," Weberg said. "As a company, that is one of your worst fears you can have. This has been pretty devastating.."

Weberg described Grimm as "happy-go-lucky" and said he was well-liked and always upbeat.

Savell will remember her brother as a guy who loved to tell stories. It became common knowledge that if Grimm had both hands in his pocket while telling a story, it was a good one. If he had one hand in his pocket and the other was holding a cigarette, the story was semi-good.

"He liked being out on the road," Savell said. "His death seems very unreal."

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205

or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

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