Authorities have reopened Colorado's main east-west highway but say it may be days before investigators are able to sort out the chain of events in a pileup involving 60 to 75 vehicles.
One person was killed and at least 22 were injured in the crash that left Interstate 70 closed for nearly eight hours Monday, stranding travelers who scrambled to find hotel rooms in the mountain communities on either side of Vail Pass.
Authorities spent the evening busing drivers caught in the pileup to nearby towns and clearing the dozens of tangled vehicles from the westbound lanes of the highway. The interstate was reopened in both directions by Monday night.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gilbert Sullivan said the accident happened during snowy weather Monday afternoon in the westbound lanes about a mile west of the summit. He said it appeared a semitrailer jackknifed and caused the original crash.
‘A big pinball wreck’
Kenny Griffin was one of the last people to make it over Vail Pass when he saw the crash.
"It was just a big pinball wreck," Griffin said.
Griffin said he saw six semitrailers — two of them jackknifed — at the front of the wreck with at least a dozen of cars jammed in-between. There appeared to be a second group of crashes farther behind, he said, with cars upside-down and pinned under one another.
At least 16 people with broken bones, bruises, and scrapes were taken to Vail Valley Medical Center, about 15 miles west of the scene, said hospital spokesman Don Bishop. All were in fair condition except one, who was to undergo surgery.
Six people were taken to a hospital in Breckenridge, where two were in critical condition.