Semi loses brakes, crashes on Rabbit Ears

No one injured; officials say truck was 'not highway worthy'

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— A tractor-trailer headed westbound on U.S. Highway 40 near Rabbit Ears Pass skidded 500 feet before flipping on its side and slamming into concrete road barriers early Monday morning.

The accident, which closed the highway for about one hour, left driver Edward Westover, 43, of Burnside, Penn., with minor injuries, according to Colorado State Trooper Travis Randolph. No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

Emergency personnel were called to the accident scene -- located near mile marker 141 and The Timbers condominiums -- at 5:38 a.m. Monday, according to the Routt County Sheriff's Office.

Andy Fox, a city of Steamboat Springs employee and a The Timbers resident, said he was leaving for work when the frightening accident unfolded.

"The first thing I heard was one loud bark of tires," Fox said. "I looked up and that's when I saw he was in the (eastbound) lanes going (westbound), and he was really, really screaming. I just watched dumbfounded as the truck turned on its side."

Fox rushed inside his home to call 911 before hurrying to the totaled tractor-trailer to assist Westover.

"It was a pretty nasty looking wreck," Fox said. "I was a little worried I'd be walking up on a dead guy."

But to his surprise, Fox said he saw Westover trying to open the truck's driver-side door, which was facing up toward the dawn sky.

Fox and a fellow neighbor were able to assist Westover before an ambulance arrived on the scene and transported him to Yampa Valley Medical Center. Westover appeared to have suffered a broken rib, scrapes to the right side of his body and a bruise on his head, Randolph said. A hospital spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Westover told authorities the truck's brake system lost its air pressure, regained it near the runaway truck ramp located along U.S. 40 and lost the pressure again shortly after passing the emergency ramp, Randolph said.

Westover then guided the truck into the eastbound lanes -- he said there was no oncoming traffic -- locked the brakes and skidded for about 500 feet before the truck turned onto its right side and slid along the asphalt for another 300 feet, Randolph said. The truck, which was hauling hydroseed, a bright green, spray-on grass seed and erosion control substance, struck between 11 and 13 roadside concrete barriers, Randolph said.

According to Westover, the truck was traveling between 65 and 70 mph before flipping onto its side, Randolph said. The speed limit along that section of the highway is 50 mph.

Randolph ticketed Westover for careless driving.

When inspecting the truck, authorities discovered four of 10 brake pads worn below the legal limit and an air leak in the truck's brake system.

"The truck was not highway worthy before it crashed," Randolph said.

Traffic continued in both directions following the accident, Randolph said. However, the highway was closed for approximately one hour late Monday morning for cleanup. The truck's hydro seed load was littered across the highway. During the closure, eastbound and westbound traffic was alternately diverted onto a one-land dirt road that passes The Timbers.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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