One dead; 600 gallons of chemical dumped on GarCo road
The driver of a semitrailer hauling coal is dead and the driver of a pickup hauling hydrochloric acid on a trailer required decontamination by hazardous materials crews before being taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries after a two-vehicle crash Monday.
Up to 600 gallons of the chemical spilled onto a remote section of Colorado Highway 139 in Garfield County, 18 miles north of Loma, as a result of the 8:27 a.m. crash, closing the route into the evening, according to trooper David Hall of the Colorado State Patrol.
The names of both drivers were not immediately released.
A multi-agency emergency effort among regional law enforcement worked to stabilize the crash scene, which was in a bend of the road about five miles south of Douglas Pass’ steep switchbacks.
The spilled acid did not enter any waterways, and there are no homes nearby. However, the chemical’s volatile fumes posed a respiratory threat to emergency workers who set up about a half-mile from the scene, said spokesman Mike Page of the Grand Junction Fire Department.
The driver of the F-550 truck was hauling the acid on a trailer, carrying four 330-gallon totes.
Hydrochloric acid is used to break up rock in the drilling process.
On Monday, crews applied 1,500 pounds of soda ash to the site to neutralize the chemical, and private contractors were called to haul away the contaminated materials.
The driver of the semitrailer was pronounced dead at the scene, and crews could not immediately extricate the man from the wreckage because of the spill’s overwhelming fumes, Page said.
“It’s a very corrosive material and causes significant respiratory problems,” Page said.
Company names attached to either vehicle involved in the crash were not available Monday.
It is also unclear which way the vehicles were heading or which driver may be considered at fault in the crash.
An at-fault driver or the company for which a driver is hauling is responsible for cleanup costs associated with a chemical spill, Page said.
Truck driver Doug Wilson of Nevada was one of dozens of motorists who was forced to change plans after the road was closed early Monday.
Wilson, who was hauling tulips to Lowe’s in Vernal, Utah, added at least 100 miles onto his journey as he was rerouted to Utah through Rifle.
“I gotta make a decision if I want to pay for that fuel,” he said of the extra costs he would have to front by changing his route. “It’s gonna set me back a good day.”