Three women from Slovakia who likely were doing seasonal work in Steamboat Springs were killed in a car accident Thursday morning on Colorado Highway 9 near Green Mountain Reservoir.
The driver of the vehicle in which they were traveling, another Steamboat Springs-area resident, faces multiple charges of careless driving causing death, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
The three women were thrown from a 1993 Mercury Tracer when their car was struck from behind by a tanker truck as they attempted to pass another vehicle.
Five people, including the deceased, were traveling in the Tracer. All were believed to be ages 21 and 23, seasonal workers from Slovakia who had been living in Steamboat.
The Tracer was traveling southbound on Colo. 9, about 16 miles north of Silverthorne, about 9:15 a.m. when the accident occurred, according to police reports.
Police said a 1999 Kenworth tanker truck that was headed southbound behind the Tracer pulled into the left lane to pass the car and at least a couple of other vehicles. The Tracer reportedly pulled into the passing lane in front of it, causing the collision.
The driver of the Tracer likely did not see the semitrailer attempting to pass, and the truck probably was speeding up and unable to slow down, Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater said.
The Tracer went out of control upon being struck, rolling several times onto the east side of the highway.
"You can't stop these trucks," Prater said. "It's not wise to pull in front of a speeding, passing truck.
"Obviously, speed was an issue."
The Tracer's driver and another passenger, both wearing seat belts, survived the crash. None of the three female passengers was wearing a seat belt, and all were ejected in the accident.
One victim was transported by Flight for Life to Denver's St. Anthony's Medical Center but died on arrival. A second was pronounced dead after being transported by Summit County Ambulance to the Summit County Medical Center. A third victim died at the scene.
Identities of the accident victims are being withheld pending notification of families, CSP said. Police did say all three of the deceased were between 21 and 23.
John Hamming, the Thornton-based driver of the tanker truck owned by Utah's Basin Western Trucking company, also may face charges for speeding, Prater said.
The accident took place near mile marker 120 next to the Green Mountain Reser-voir. It closed traffic on Colo. 9 for almost two hours.
"The whole scene was pretty chaotic," Prater said. "Traffic ended up being backed up a couple of miles in each direction."
Prater said the Tracer's driver and another passenger, both men, were wearing seat belts and survived the accident with only minor injuries.
After being transported to Mountain Valley Medical Center in Kremmling for observation, the driver was returned to Summit County and booked, Prater said. He expects the CSP likely will press charges that include careless driving causing death.
Ambulance crews from Summit County and Kremmling responded to the accident, as well as nine staff members from Lake Dillon Fire Department.
Prater said officers from the Summit County Sheriff's Office also were on the scene and were able to make the Flight for Life call.
The accident occurred in a legal passing zone, Prater said. Prater said he believes lack of seat belts contributed directly to the deaths.
"When you look at the vehicle, you see that the passenger cabin held up pretty much intact -- there was very little intrusion in the accident," he said. "If everyone could have been kept in the safety zone, they might have had some minor injuries, but they wouldn't have been killed. I just keep on hearing so many different opinions on seat belts -- but people need to wear them to stay alive."
Prater said his staff and the Summit County Victims' Advocates office are attempting to contact the victims' next of kin. He expects to release names today.
Erin Ragan contributed to this report.