A Steamboat Springs man was killed Tuesday in an accident that closed Interstate 70 in Denver for almost four hours.
The man was killed instantly when his 2003 Audi was hit head on by an out-of-control tractor-trailer that veered into oncoming traffic, said Wheat Ridge Police Department spokeswoman Lisa Stigall. Although authorities are not expected to release the victim's name until this morning, a family friend confirmed that the man killed was Russell Vande Velde. Vande Velde was a Steamboat resident with several children in the Steamboat Springs School District.
The accident happened at about 11:30 a.m. on I-70 near 38th Avenue. The tractor-trailer, an empty sod truck, was headed east when its left front tire blew, causing the driver to lose control. The truck crossed the median, which was a shallow grass ditch about 50 feet wide, and slid into westbound traffic, Stigall said.
The truck first hit Vande Velde's car, which was traveling in the fast lane, then hit a 1998 Dodge Neon before coming to a rest, jackknifed in the westbound lanes.
"A witness said the man who was killed apparently slowed his vehicle down to let others pass," Stigall said. "None of us were there to say, but he may have saved other people's lives."
The semi apparently rolled over the engine compartment of the Neon with its front tires before the back tires caught against the small car's driver's door, dragging it. The driver of the Neon, 28-year-old Joanna Martin of Northglenn, was hurt but was able to pull herself out of her car, Stigall said.
Martin and the truck's driver were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries. The truck driver's name is not being released, pending an investigation into the accident to determine whether the man will face any criminal charges, Stigall said.
The accident closed westbound I-70 from noon to about 4 p.m., Stigall said.