Potatoes and onions sprinkle Teton Pass, driver ok

JACKSON, Wyo. — The aftermath of yesterday’s crash on Teton Pass looks like a harvest out of a horror movie.

“Everything was scattered all over,” said WYDOT Jackson Maintenance Supervisor Bruce Daigle. “Found a mirror in a tree, wires in a tree branch. boxes everywhere. And potatoes and onions.”

The truck carrying a load of potatoes and onions was at least 20,000 pounds overweight when it tried to drive over Teton Pass yesterday, Daigle said. The brakes gave out somewhere on the east side as the driver was coming into Wilson. The driver blew past the gravel runoff ramp on the opposite side of the road, and WYDOT’s catch net system is closed while engineers investigate how a pickup was able to plow through all eight nets. Potato truck had no choice but to drive into WYDOT’s sand shed.

“If he’d done anything else, it probably would have been fatal,” Daigle said. “I don’t know how it wasn’t.”

But the force of impact from the trailer full of vegetables hitting the back of the cab sent the cab and driver flying. The cab detached from the trailer and flew about 300 feet. Miraculously, the driver had a bloody face and minor injuries but was otherwise ok.

“It was one heck of a ride,” Daigle said.

There wasn’t a single potato left in the trailer when officials arrived, Daigle said. Each and every one landed somewhere along Teton Pass.

Could have been worse for WYDOT, too. The roof of the sand shed collapsed last winter, and WYDOT wasn’t going to replace it until next summer anyway. “For us, it’s not a big deal,” Daigle said.

Still, this is the cherry (or onion?) on top of a brutal summer for WYDOT equipment. Just weeks before the pickup truck took out the catch net arrester, another vehicle crashed into the weigh station and rendered it a “total loss.”

But that’s why WYDOT has redundancies, Daigle said. The weigh station is one of several opportunities for drivers to comply with the weight limit (60,000 lbs), and Daigle speculated “the chances of [the driver] pulling in and checking their weight are slim to none.”

“The driver knows what he weighs when he picks up his load,” Daigle said. There are also systems at the base of the pass that signal if a vehicle is overweight and will trigger flashing lights to alert the driver. In this case, Daigle thinks this was a case of “simply not paying attention.”

Daigle wants truck drivers to consider the consequences of disregarding Teton Pass’s weight limit. WYDOT can do its part to enforce it and keep drivers safe, but “we can’t drive for people,” Daigle said. “You have to be responsible.”

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