A semi-tractor trailer was barreling down Interstate 70 when it collided with 24 cars and four semi-tractor trailers, triggering a series of explosions that killed multiple people and sent six people to hospitals with serious injuries, authorities say.
In a Friday morning press conference, Lakewood police spokesman Ty Countryman said police are not yet releasing the number of people killed in the crash as investigators work to verify the number of fatalities.
The interstate highway will remain closed in both directions at Denver West through the rush hour Friday while police investigate the long stretch of the highway for evidence and road crews clean up debris. Colorado Department of Transportation officials said Friday they will assess bridge and road damage after police finish the investigation.
The driver who caused the chain-reaction crash has been taken into custody and Countryman expects the driver to be charged with several counts of vehicular homicide in connection with the crash, he said. There is no evidence the crash was intentional, Countryman said. The unidentified driver was one of six people who suffered injuries in the crash.
Initially, Countryman reported one person was dead but as West Metro firefighters extinguished multiple car fires, they discovered more bodies in the wreckage, Countryman said.
Emergency calls started streaming into dispatchers at 4:50 p.m. Thursday. Lakewood police had to wait until fire crews were finished rescuing people and putting out roaring car fires before approaching the scene for an investigation that continues Friday morning.
A West Metro Fire Rescue firefighter was also injured by an explosion, fire officials said. The firefighter was hit by debris, likely from an exploding tire. His injuries were described as minor.
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According to a preliminary investigation, a driver lost control of a semi-truck and plowed into standstill traffic underneath a bridge, resulting in explosions and fire that involved 28 vehicles, Countryman said. At least one truck was carrying lumber. A diesel spill and other fluids added fuel to the fire.
Countryman described the incident and scene as “devastation.”
Traffic on I-70 where the crash occurred had backed up because of an earlier crash, Countryman said.
That crash happened on I-70 near Ward Road and involved a school bus and semi-truck. Only minor injuries were reported, but eastbound lanes of the highway were briefly shut down.
A bridge over the Denver West crash site was damaged in the blaze, and engineers from CDOT responded to check its stability. There was also road damage from the fire which will be assessed before reopening.
Check back for updates on this developing story.
Kieran Nicholson also contributed to this report.