Trucker: Rig had stalled eight hours before fatal crash

Cops say traffic cones he placed contributed to interstate wreck

Tinauris Wise

An Illinois man facing a criminally negligent-homicide charge told authorities his tractor-trailer had been broken down on the side of Interstate 70 for nearly eight hours Tuesday before a fatal accident occurred near his truck.

Tinauris C. Wise, 33, of Chicago Heights, Ill., said his son, niece and nephew were waiting in the cab of his tractor, and he had placed orange emergency cones into oncoming traffic for his own safety, according to an arrest affidavit.

Wise told a Colorado State Patrol trooper he placed the cones to block the right-hand westbound lane of I-70 because “trucks kept passing too close to him and that a motorist hit one of those (cones), and that he was standing near the rear of the (cones) and attempting to signal people over,” the affidavit said.

County Court Judge Bruce Raaum on Wednesday ordered Wise held on $3,000 bond on suspicion of criminally negligent homicide and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and obstructing a highway.

Jose Aragon, 60, of Grand Junction, died in the accident. He was a passenger in a Ford Focus driven by Grand Junction resident Sharon Diaz. Her vehicle was struck from behind by a Subaru Outback driven by Rifle resident Richard Carlson as vehicles were forced into the left-hand lane by Wise’s truck, the affidavit said.

John Burkey, a public defender who spoke on Wise’s behalf, told the judge Wise is a career over-the-road trucker who had no traffic accidents or driving citations on his record prior to Tuesday.

The affidavit said Wise told State Patrol troopers his vehicle had broken down around 6:45 a.m., and that he waited throughout the day for a tow truck to arrive at the scene at milepost 64 near De Beque. Wise said he initially placed the emergency cones directly behind the vehicle “as he had been trained,” but he decided to move them into the right-hand lane after near-misses by other cars.

“This is the first time in my career that I had seen a lane closure, in a high-speed area with such a short time to react, let alone on a downhill curve,” a State Patrol trooper wrote in the affidavit.

Diaz’s Ford Focus was traveling approximately 55 mph moments before the accident, Wise told authorities. Wise said Carlson’s Outback was approaching from behind Diaz in the left lane and was moving “much faster,” the affidavit said.

Carlson’s Outback slammed into the rear of the Focus, throwing Aragon into the westbound lane of I-70 and causing the Focus to roll 1 1/2 times, the State Patrol said. Carlson and Diaz were taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital.

Neither the hospital nor the State Patrol could provide updates on their conditions as of Tuesday evening.

Wise’s affidavit said Mesa County Human Services workers took custody of his son, niece and nephew after the accident.


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