Truck involved in fatal Hwy. 82 crash allegedly violated operating permit
EL JEBEL ” The trucking firm involved in a fatal accident on Highway 82 Tuesday morning violated its operating permit by not displaying lights on the side of the modular trailer it towed, a Colorado State Patrol investigator said Wednesday.
Trooper Dennis Gibbons said the truck owned by Davidson Industries could legally haul the trailer at night ” as long it had proper lighting. In this case, that required lights on each of the four corners that were visible from the sides, as well as one light on each side of the trailer between the corners.
That would have resulted in three lights on each side of the trailer, Gibbons said. The trailer didn’t have any lights visible on the sides.
The 1984 Kenworth Truck driven by Mark Chamness, 48, of Littleton, pulled out of a private driveway on the north side of Highway 82, crossed the westbound or downvalley lanes, then stopped in the median while waiting to turn left toward Aspen.
The truck was delivering the type of temporary office seen at construction projects. That structure was bound for Buttermilk Ski Area as part of preparations for the ESPN Winter X Games, the state patrol said.
The modular trailer blocked both westbound lanes of Highway 82 while Chamness was stopped and waiting to turn, Gibbons said. A downvalley-bound 2000 Kia Sephia with three passengers slammed into the trailer at about 6:40 a.m. The driver and a passenger in the front were killed at the scene. A passenger in the back survived the crash with serious injuries. (See related story.)
“They just flat never saw the trailer,” Gibbons said. Sunrise was at 7:27 a.m. that morning or about 47 minutes later. At the time the accident, unlit objects weren’t discernible, he said.
And even if the driver did see the trailer, it was too late to react, Gibbons said. It takes 2.5 seconds to see something, perceive it as a danger then transfer a foot from the gas pedal to the brake, according to Gibbons.
Investigators found no sign that the Kia was braking. The car was traveling at or around the posted 65 mph speed limit, Gibbons said. Speed and alcohol were eliminated as factors in the crash.
There were reports that another vehicle, a “Penske truck,” stopped in the right lane for the tractor-trailer. The Kia was in the left lane. The other vehicle wasn’t involved in the accident and departed the scene before investigators could interview the driver.
Davidson Industries of Commerce City, owner of the truck in the crash, has declined comment on the accident. The firm held an annual permit for what is called “movement of extra-legal vehicles or loads” from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Those permits, which are a standard issue, come with numerous rules and regulations. If, for example, the modular trailer being hauled to Buttermilk was wider than 14 feet, it couldn’t have been on the road during darkness.
Another rule prohibits loads like the modular trailer from being hauled on Highway 82 between Carbondale and Aspen during “rush hours.” The prohibition covers from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“He probably wasn’t going to be in compliance with that, either,” Gibbons said. The time required to travel between the Catherine Store area and Buttermilk was likely greater than 20 minutes.
Nancy Shanks, CDOT spokeswoman, said permits can be taken from haulers. However, hearings must be held and some party must initiate the action. An accident doesn’t automatically trigger CDOT review of a permit holder.
Chamness received a citation from the state patrol on suspicion of four violations: careless driving causing death, careless driving causing bodily injury, stopping in an intersection when prohibited, and violating a permit by operating during the hours of darkness. He was released after he received the summons. Gibbons said he is completing the paperwork necessary for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to review the case for a decision on filing charges.
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