I-70 crash victims recovering after collision with semi truck

Robert Allen
Summit County correspondent
Aspen,CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit DailyRescue workers clear up the wreckage of the accident that injured a Denver couple last week on I-70 near Dillon Valley.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – John and Nancy Newman of Denver had planned a weekend camping with their son in Aspen last weekend before a semi truck hit their camper trailer descending westbound Interstate 70 from the Eisenhower Tunnel.

“I felt a big boom and crash and saw the guardrail,” Nancy Newman said. “We rolled a couple of times, and I believe the truck came over the top of us.”

The Aug. 5 crash put John Newman in the intensive-care unit at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver, where he remained Thursday. His injuries included two breaks in his neck, a heart attack and a blood clot in his head, among others.

“His heart is so weak they can’t do any type of surgery that involves general anesthesia … They still don’t know what they’re going to do,” Nancy Newman said. “But we’re very, very lucky to be alive.”

Nancy Newman sustained severe whiplash, cuts and bruises. She is out of the hospital.

The wreck happened after semi truck driver Michael Harlan lost his brakes and was unable to use the runaway truck ramp, which was occupied by another semi truck.

He was cited with careless driving because his truck had been traveling too fast when the brakes burned out, according to a Colorado State Patrol officer in a previous report.

The Newmans’ camper was disintegrated, and belongings ranging from food to camping gear were scattered about 100 yards along the highway after the collision.

The semi continued off the road for about 100 more yards before becoming wedged in a ditch. Harlan sustained minor injuries.

Nancy Newman, a retired United Methodist pastor who served in Atlanta for six years, said the people who stopped on the highway to help were “just wonderful, just amazing.”

“I know that as a pastor, but particularly in these rough economic times we’ve been going through, it’s just a wonderful piece of light that you realize that people area still good and wanting to help,” she said.

It took 45 minutes and the Jaws of Life to remove the roof from the Ford Explorer and free the couple.

John Newman was flown from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco to the Denver hospital after the crash because of the extent of his injuries.

“He’s got a long recuperation, and he’s still pretty unstable,” Nancy said.

People helped take the Newmans’ dogs Jericho, a 5-pound Yorkshire terrier, and Jezibeele, a miniature Schnauzer, to a veterinarian in Denver “to get specialized care,” Nancy said.

Jericho died the next day because of a broken back. Jezibeele is “very battered and bruised,” but survived, Nancy said.