Four people are dead after a flat-bed tractor-trailer loaded with lumber barreled down from the foothills and slammed into rush-hour traffic stalled on Interstate 70 in west Lakewood on Thursday afternoon, carving a fiery path of carnage near Colorado Mills.
The truck driver, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera, has been arrested and is facing multiple charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. He is being held without bond at the Jefferson County jail.
“Those charges are stemming from interviews on evidence that was gathered overnight,” Lakewood Police Department spokesman Ty Countryman said Friday morning.
Countryman said there is no evidence to suggest the driver intentionally caused the crash that included at least 28 vehicles and left another seven hurt. Drugs and alcohol are not thought to have been a factor in the crash. Countryman said Lazaro Aguilera, 23, is from Texas.
Countryman said Lazaro Aguilera is cooperating with investigators.
Authorities are investigating, however, whether the tractor-trailer lost its brakes coming down from the mountains. The crash happened in the interstate’s eastbound lanes just before 5 p.m. at the Denver West Parkway exit, just below where I-70 transitions from steep inclines into a flat grade.
Investigators said four tractor-trailers were involved in the crash. They painted a scene of devastation at the site: bodies still in vehicles on Friday morning, and melted and charred cars lodged under semi trailers.
“We’re still trying to identify what some of the cars even are,” Countryman said.
One Colorado State Patrol trooper said on Twitter that it was unlike anything they’d ever seen in 26 years on the force. “I’m at a loss for words.”
At least six people, including the driver of the tractor trailer that caused the chain-reaction crash and a firefighter hurt responding to the scene, were also sent to the hospital. Details on the extent of those injuries have not been released, though authorities did say the tractor-trailer driver’s were not serious.
A YouTube vlogger appeared to catch the moments before the crash on film, showing the tractor trailer speeding past stopped vehicles. The vlogger narrates and screams expletives as he drives past a massive plume of black smoke and over the bridge as flames build from the road below. The smoke plume was visible for miles away.
Authorities say temperatures inside the crash zone reached some 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Sections of the pavement likely will have to be replaced and inspectors are checking the structural integrity of the overpass above where the wreck occurred.
I-70 is closed in both directions in the area and is not expected to reopen before Saturday.
The names of those killed in the crash have not been released. Each of those who died were in separate vehicles.
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