Charge reduced against trucker in fatal pileup in Wyoming

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 8:28 PM
Charge reduced against trucker in fatal pileup in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Crews reopened Interstate 80 on Tuesday, about 32 hours after a fiery chain-reaction crash involving more than 60 vehicles killed two people and became the second weather-related pileup to shut down the major trucking corridor in less than a week.

Also on Tuesday, authorities dropped an aggravated vehicular homicide charge against a Canadian truck driver involved in Monday's crash on a foggy, slick highway in southeast Wyoming.

Instead, Alex Dragaytsev, 45, of Longueuil, Canada, was cited for failure to use caution for hazardous conditions and released from custody, Albany County prosecuting attorney Peggy Trent said.

The citation carries a $60 fine that Dragaytsev can challenge or pay by April 28, Trent said. "We did not feel that there was, from the investigation that was completed at this point, that we could proceed with the charge at this point," she said.

But Trent noted the crash remains under investigation.

Trent said she didn't know where Dragaytsev went after he was released. There was no contact information for him on the citation other than his home address in Canada.

The crash occurred about 8 a.m. Monday 18 miles west of Laramie. It shut down traffic for about 100 miles in both directions on the interstate, which is a major trucking corridor across the country. On average, more than 6,000 trucks per day use the highway across Wyoming.

Eastbound lanes were reopened about 11:30 p.m. Monday, and the westbound lanes reopened shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials say the fire, the complicated investigation, the many large tractor-trailers that had to be removed and the need to repair the road surface contributed to the long closure.

The crash came four days after several pileups involving nearly 50 vehicles during a blinding snowstorm closed the busy interstate for two days.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said the crash Monday started with two commercial trucks, one of which jackknifed in both westbound lanes about 18 miles west of Laramie.

Dozens of other vehicles piled into one another.

"I come out of the fog, and boom, there was the wreck," trucker Jeff Blair told the Laramie Boomerang newspaper (http://bit.ly/1zGMYHp ). Blair said a truck rear-ended his tractor-trailer, but he avoided any other damage by pulling into the median.

A 22,000-gallon tanker carrying a flammable liquid was among the vehicles that caught fire, but it appeared that no hazardous materials leaked, said Bruce Burrows, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol identified the two motorists killed as Lynn Freeman, 58, of Williford, Arkansas, and Jenay L. Breden, 23, of Westminster, Colorado.

An estimated 20 to 25 people were taken to a nearby hospital, three of whom were admitted and one of whom was transferred to a hospital in Denver.

While the interstate was shut down, traffic was rerouted to a two-lane highway that added about 20 miles to travelers' trips.

Fog caused another major crash in neighboring Colorado last week. A tour bus carrying Brooklyn-based performer Twin Shadow hit a tractor-trailer Friday on a foggy stretch of Interstate 70. The bus driver and drummer remain in serious condition.