Man and daughter escape serious injury after harrowing accident with semi on Highway 82 at El Jebel

Basalt firefighters size up how to extricate the occupant of a pickup crushed Thursday afternoon by a pile of sheetrock.
Scott Condon / The Aspen Times |

A man and his daughter escaped serious injury Thursday when their pickup was hit by a semi-truck that blew through a red light, rolled onto its side and deposited part of its cargo on the pickup’s cab.

The accident closed Highway 82 at the intersection with Willits Lane in El Jebel and drew scores of curious onlookers to the side of the roadway because it looked so severe. The semi was hauling sheetrock on its flatbed trailer. The crane on the bed smashed the cab of the pickup and pinned the male driver between the floorboard and dash, according to Basalt Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bradshaw. Numerous sheets of sheetrock were perched above the cab of the pickup and made a quick extrication of the driver impossible, Bradsahw said.

Basalt firefighters enlisted the help of contractor J & V Construction, Crawford Properties and Rocky Mountain Stone Supply to bring heavy equipment to the site. Two forklifts and a front-end loader were used to lift the drywall truck. A winch from a fire truck was used to pull the pickup out from its precarious position, Bradshaw said.

The driver was stabilized before the maneuvers were undertaken. During the operation, firefighters removed the passenger’s door, then the driver’s door and finally performed what Bradshaw called a “dash roll” to free the driver’s legs from the compressed dash.

“It was sort of like three extrications all in one,” Bradshaw said.

A girl who Bradshaw estimated was 5 years old was a passenger in the pickup. She was able to get out of the pickup and suffered minor injuries. She and her dad were taken to a hospital in stable condition, as was a passenger in the semi, according to Bradshaw.

The accident occurred shortly after noon when it was particularly busy with traffic headed to the El Jebel City Market, Whole Foods and surrounding businesses. A loud crash followed by a stuck horn could be heard from nearby residential areas.

Colorado State Patrol investigators said the semi was headed eastbound on Highway 82 when it blew through the red light. The gray GMC Sierra pickup was turning left from Willits Lane to westbound Highway 82. The impact of the collision pushed the Sierra into a Ford Expedition that was eastbound on the highway. The Expedition was pushed head-on into a red Toyota Tundra that was stopped in the left turn lane of the highway. No occupants of the Expedition or Tundra were transported to a hospital, according to Bradshaw.

Highway 82 remained closed at the intersection through the afternoon as a hazardous materials crew cleaned up an estimated 100 gallons of spilled fuel from the semi as well as an estimated 100 sheets of sheetrock, according to the State Patrol.

No names of the vehicles’ occupants were immediately available. The accident remains under investigation and no citation had been issued by mid-afternoon.

Bradshaw said the Fire Department was called to the scene at 12:14 p.m. It was able to “unpin” the pickup from the drywall truck at 12:42 p.m. A total of 15 fire and medical emergency responders came to the scene, including six volunteers. Other responding agencies were Carbondale Fire Department, Basalt Police Department, the sheriff’s offices of Eagle and Pitkin counties, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation.