The intersection of Camino del Rio and U.S. Highway 550 in Durango became a bizarre and chaotic scene Sunday afternoon as emergency crews rushed to rescue about 80 cattle from a semitrailer that over-turned on its side.
About 4 p.m., reports flew into emergency dispatch the truck was blocking the busy intersection, causing a closure of Camino del Rio. The lanes were reopened about 6:20 p.m.
Members of Durango Fire Protection District hastened to carve out extraction points on the roof of the truck with an electric saw to allow the livestock to escape.
Ranchers on horseback stood by to herd the cattle to a makeshift corral on a vacant lot adjacent to the “Welcome to Historic Durango” sign.
Scott Cox, one of the ranchers, said he was driving his daughter back to Durango from Mancos on U.S. Highway 160 when he noticed the semi.
“He was not driving straight,” he told The Durango Herald.
Cox followed the truck from behind, and then, just outside of Durango, he could tell from the semi’s exhaust that the brakes had gone out. As the truck approached the T-intersection, it snaked and fell on its side.
Cox called his rancher friends, and within 30 minutes, several men on horseback responded.
“In the cowboy circle, word gets round pretty fast,” Cox said.
The driver, Travis Phillips, said he was hauling cattle from a ranch in Dolores to a property in southwest Kansas. He told the Herald he is not a contracted driver, and instead said was making the drive as a favor for a business partner.
Phillips, who suffered only minor injuries, cited a list of failures of the clutch, brakes and power steering in no clear order. He was even unable to name the gear he was in at the time of the accident.
“I was trying like hell not to hit anybody,” Phillips, who said he is from Kansas, told the Herald. “I was going 45 miles per hour too fast.”
No arrests were made on the scene. DPD Sgt. William Sweetwood said an investigation will look at the mechanics of the truck, and if necessary, charges could be filed.
None of some 80 head of cattle was injured. When emergency crews were able to saw out an opening, most of the livestock were standing upright. For the cows knocked down, Cox had entered the trailer and got them on their feet.
“I didn’t hear any gunshots, so there must not of been any injured,” said Wyatt Cox, Scott’s son who also took part in the roundup.
Sweetwood was uncertain if the cattle would be returned to Dolores or be taken to another holding pin. He did say, however, the department was lucky the ranchers were around.
“It made it a lot easier having these gentlemen here,” Sweetwood said.
Cox, ending a strange Sunday covered in mud and dung, posed for pictures with his family and fellow ranchers after the cattle were secured. All things considered, he said, it wasn’t the weirdest way he’s ended a weekend.
“This is not my first rodeo,” he said.