Two tractor-trailers collided on Rabbit Ears Pass on Tuesday evening, pinning one of the drivers inside his cab and causing serious injuries that required emergency surgery. The accident closed U.S. Highway 40 for more than five hours.
According to a report submitted by the Colorado State Patrol, an empty fuel tanker from Wyoming was traveling east on U.S. 40 near mile marker 155 in Jackson County when it crossed the double yellow lane divider and struck a City Market tractor-trailer heading west toward Steamboat Springs. The accident occurred at about 7:15 p.m., as both tractor-trailers entered a sweeping curve on the highway.
After the initial collision, the empty fuel tanker, driven by Richard Winder, 39, rotated counterclockwise and jackknifed. The fuel tanker slid across the roadway and into a guardrail, blocking the eastbound lane and one of the two westbound lanes.
The City Market tractor-trailer, driven by Thomas Johnson, 48, came to a stop in a westbound lane. Rescue personnel who responded to the accident extricated Johnson from his truck and transported him to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where he had surgery. Johnson suffered from multiple fractures and other serious injuries, according to the accident report. Johnson was listed in fair condition Wednesday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said.
Winder, who was cited for careless driving causing bodily injury, received bumps and bruises from the accident, according to the report. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the collision.
Deputies from the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office responded to the accident, as well as troopers from Colorado State Patrol and emergency rescue personnel from the Steamboat Springs Fire Department.
State patrol officers said they suspect the combination of high vehicle speed and wintry road conditions caused the truck to veer into the westbound lane.
The highway reopened at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the report.
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