Truck carrying explosives crashes, explodes in Utah
August 11, 2005
A truck carrying 35,500 pounds (16,100 kg) of explosives used in mining and seismic exploration overturned and exploded on a rural mountain section of U.S. Highway 6 in Utah's Spanish Fork Canyon Thursday afternoon.
The wreck occurred shortly after 2 pm, as driver Travis Stewart, 30, of Rexburg, Idaho, was leaving Ensign-Bickford Co., a commercial explosives manufacturing plant at the mouth of the canyon. Company officials said the truck was destined for Oklahoma.
Witnesses said Mr. Stewart appeared to lose control of the truck after entering a curve in the road at a high rate of speed. Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Ken Peay said, "speed was a factor" in the wreck of the truck but refused to speculate on how fast the truck was traveling when it wrecked. Lt. Peay said the posted speed limit on the road is 60 mph, but the advised speed is 40.
At least 17 people received minor injuries and the explosion left a 35 foot deep crater in the highway. The driver was transported via helicopter to a hospital, where he was listed in fair condition, and was later released. The co-driver Troy Lysfjord, 37, of Blackfoot, Idaho, was helped from the wreck by passers by and listed in fair condition at Utah Valley Regional Hospital in Provo.
The wreck site occurred on a major thoroughfare between Denver and Salt Lake City - about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City - was already under reconstruction by nightfall, as road crews began installing 10 inches of asphalt on the two lane road.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hudachko said officials hoped to have the road fully repaired by Friday afternoon, adding that, "When you take a look at that hole that was there 24 hours ago, I think it's amazing the progress that was made." As of press time, the mouth of the canyon was reopened to traffic, while traffic at the accident site was impassible, and rerouted nearby.
The explosion consumed all but about 60 pounds of explosives, and loosened some boulders on the north side of the highway, damaged railroad tracks and some fiber optic lines buried along the roadway. Amtrak and Union Pacific reported delays resulting from the wreck. Uinta National Forest spokesman Loyal Clark said forest firefighters were unable to respond to several small fires nearby that were apparently started by flying debris, and that helicopters dropped water to extinguish them. High humidity and lack of fuel from a previous fire delayed the fire's spread.
The cost of repairs, while paid immediately by the state, will ultimately be borne by the trucking company's insurance carrier. The truck is registered to R&R Trucking of Duenweg, Missouri.
UHP Lt. Peay said the investigation findings will be turned over to Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson whom would make any final decision about what charges, if any, would be pressed.
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