Friday, April 10, 2009

Collision causes major damage, minor injuries

Fiery accident burns semi truck, starts wildfire

Express Staff Writer

A fiery, high-impact collision between two tractor-trailers Tuesday at Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue completely destroyed one of the vehicles, damaged a power pole and delayed travel on two busy highways.

Jeff Nevins, Wood River Fire & Rescue assistant fire chief, said the accident proved to be a difficult one to clean up.

"We were at the scene for quite a long time," he said. "The damage to the vehicles was so extensive."

Nevins said Wood River Fire & Rescue was called to the scene, the intersection of state Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 20 near Timmerman Hill, at about 12:30 p.m. Upon arriving, he said, firefighters and other emergency responders discovered the remnants of a severe crash in which a southbound tractor-trailer crashed into the side of a northbound semi carrying an empty, open-top grain trailer.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office reported that the northbound truck, a 2005 Freightliner driven by Lonnie M. Meeks, 31, of Parma, attempted to turn left (west) onto Highway 20 into the path of the southbound truck, a 2008 Peterbilt driven by Bryce D. Nelson, 31, of Utah. Nelson had a passenger in his truck, Omar A. Hernandez, 35, of Utah.

The "T-bone" collision forced the northbound Freightliner partially off the southwest corner of the intersection into a power pole. It then caught on fire.

Nevins said the fire spread into nearby brush. In addition, leaking diesel fuel spread onto the highway, causing a "significant" hazardous-materials incident, he said.

The wreckage and potential danger to other travelers forced the closure of both Highway 75 and Highway 20. The intersection was closed for about an hour, until the northbound lane was opened to allow some traffic flow. Detours were established as crews from Idaho Power Co. worked to stabilize the damaged power pole.

After approximately 2.5 hours, normal traffic flow resumed in the southbound and westbound directions. Eastbound traffic was diverted through a detour even longer as the burnt wreckage was cleared.

Meeks suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations. He was transported to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and was later released, the sheriff's report states. Nelson suffered a small laceration to one of his legs. He was transported to St. Luke's and later released. Hernandez, who suffered a minor bump to his head, refused medical treatment, the report states.

Emergency responders from Wood River, the Hailey Fire Department and Ketchum Fire Department assisted in the response. Sand was used to soak up the fuel on the highway, Nevins said.

The crash is still under investigation. No citations have been issued.

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