Fuel Tanker Rollover on Hwy 550 Shuts Down Traffic last Friday
U.S. Highway 550 remained closed for several hours on Friday, September 16th after the fatal fuel tanker roll over, 1/10 of a mile north of the Colorado/New Mexico state line. After several hours of cleanup, the highway was reopened at 8pm on Friday evening.
The Colorado State Patrol reported that twenty-four-year-old Ruben Gomez of New Mexico died when the Western Refining Inc. tanker he was driving rolled over on the highway.
Gomez was driving northbound when he ran off the right side of the road. After trying to steer the truck back onto the road, he lost control, sending the truck into the median before rolling and blocking the northbound lane, said Colorado State Patrol spokesman Mike Baker.
Authorities have cited “distracted driving” as the cause of the accident and believe that Gomez was texting when the rollover occurred, a State Patrol official said.
The tanker’s full load, 4,000 gallons of fuel, spilled onto the highway and the surrounding soil during the crash, said Dave Imming, spokesman for Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.
Both lanes remained closed until the fire officials and hazmat crews reduced the possibility
of explosion and fire at the accident scene, and cleared the road of debris.
Crews are completing vapor mitigation in the area, a process which involves covering the area with squares of absorbent material and layering peat moss, tarps and sand.