A violent crash recorded on video Monday in front of Woody’s Food Store on U.S. Highway 160 caused a vehicle fire, sent one person to the hospital and partially closed the highway for several hours.
The crash occurred after a southbound Dodge truck and camper trailer driven by Warren McMinn, 19, of Aztec, New Mexico, was attempting to brake behind slowing traffic, said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Wyatt Smith.
As McMinn attempted to brake, his 25-foot camper trailer swung sideways into the northbound lane and struck a northbound Chevy Cobalt, driven by Ivan Nelson, of Towaoc. The truck and trailer then overturned and burst into flames.
McMinn and his passenger suffered minor cuts after kicking out the truck’s back window to escape.
Nelson suffered moderate to serious injuries and was transported to Southwest Memorial, then airlifted to another hospital, Smith said.
McMinn was issued a citation for careless driving causing bodily injury.
“He failed to safely brake in time, and could not regain control when the trailer swung into the oncoming lane,” Smith said.
He said the security video showed that southbound traffic had slowed for a vehicle that had made a left turn from Woody’s parking lot into the southbound lane of the highway.
“There was nothing wrong with the way the car pulled out,” Smith said. “The footage shows there was a delay after the turn was made, and three cars slowed down appropriately, but the fourth vehicle pulling the trailer lost control.”
After the collision, Nelson was trapped in his crumpled vehicle and required extrication. Crews from the Cortez Fire Protection District cut off the vehicle’s doors, frame and roof to reach him.
“The rescue crews from different agencies did a great job getting the victim out and putting out the fire,” said Shawn Bittle, assistant fire chief for the Cortez Fire Protection District.
The crash scene was dramatic, said emergency responders. The burning, overturned truck and trailer were against the west side guardrail, and the fire was being doused by the Ute Mountain Fire Department. The passenger car ended up off the highway to the east, where Cortez rescue crews conducted extrication to reach the injured victim.
“When I arrived, the camper and trailer were fully engulfed, and debris was all over the highway,” Bittle said.
The accident occurred at 10:50 a.m. at mile marker 28, just south of Woody’s convenience store and north of the Ute Mountain Casino. Because of the severity of the crash, fire and rescue efforts, and amount of wreckage, traffic was delayed until past 2 p.m.
A Colorado Department of Transportation crew directed traffic. Northbound and southbound traffic were allowed to pass in one lane, 50 cars at a time. Traffic was backed up for more than a mile for hours.
Local emergency services responded to the accident, including the Colorado State Patrol, Ute Mountain Fire Department and EMT Rescue, the Cortez Fire Protection District, Southwest Health System, Montezuma County sheriff’s deputies and CDOT.
“It’s pretty rare to have video footage of a crash, and it was helpful in the investigation,” Smith said.