Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Steamboat Springs A Colorado Springs woman died Sunday night on Rabbit Ears Pass after the Safeway semitrailer she was riding in rolled over and burst into flames.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper J.J. Sewell said Tracie McKiethen-Harp, 35, was riding in a 2000 Freightliner semitrailer driven by her husband, 36-year-old Sanford Bernard Harp of Colorado Springs, at about 11 p.m. on U.S. Highway 40. Harp apparently lost control of the semitrailer through a curve on the pass, causing the semitrailer to jackknife into the eastbound lane of traffic and off the left side of the highway. The semitrailer then traveled up the side of a hill, rolled onto its top and eventually came to rest on its side, blocking the eastbound lane of traffic, Sewell said.
The semitrailer's cab became disconnected from the trailer, he said.
The semitrailer caught fire, completely destroying the vehicle that was loaded with food.
Sewell said the truck's side tanks likely caught fire after the rollover.
McKiethen-Harp was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said the woman's preliminary cause of death is not known. An autopsy is pending.
Harp was transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center to be treated for moderate burns to his arms, Sewell said. Witnesses said Harp attempted to pull his wife from the truck after the accident, Sewell said.
Hospital spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said Harp had been released by Monday afternoon.
Rain fell on Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday, but roads were dry at the time of the accident, Sewell said. Alcohol and speed do not appear to be contributing factors, and McKiethen-Harp and Harp were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident, he said.
Harp complained of brake problems prior to losing control of his truck.
"He thinks he had brake failure, but there was not evidence up there to support that," Sewell said.
No other vehicles were involved or injuries were reported, he said.
Harp was cited for a traffic misdemeanor of careless driving causing injury, Sewell said.
"We investigate what Colorado laws were broken in these types of accidents regardless of the relationships involved," he said. "The end result is that it doesn't matter."
Colorado State Patrol still is investigating the accident, he said.
A Safeway official in Denver said McKiethen-Harp and Harp were independent contract drivers.
"This is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," said Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf.