I-80 reopened after chain-reaction crash that killed two; charges reduced against trucker

I-80 reopened after chain-reaction crash that killed two; charges reduced against trucker


Crews reopened Interstate 80 on Tuesday, about 32 hours after a huge chain-reaction crash that killed two people.

The fiery crash involved more than 60 vehicles. It shut down traffic for about 100 miles in both directions on the interstate, which is a major trucking corridor across the country.

During the closure, some traffic was rerouted north through Casper.

Officials with the Wyoming Highway Patrol said Tuesday a second person died from the crash, and "that is projected to be the final number of fatalities involved."

Officials said Lynn Freeman, 58, of Williford, Arkansas, and 23-year-old Jenay Breden of Westminster, Colorado, died at the crash site in separate vehicles.

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

Crews removed wreckage Tuesday from the 64 vehicles involved and assessed damage to the pavement caused by a fire that was started by the crash.

Officials with the Wyoming Department of Transportation reduced the speed limit in the area to 65 mph. They estimated 220 feet of the road was damaged in the crash. Temporary repairs were made to allow slower traffic.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol says the pileup happened about 18 miles west of Laramie in dense fog and light slush. Two commercial trucks crashed, causing one to jackknife in both westbound lanes. A tanker carrying hazardous materials was involved, but officials don't believe any of the materials leaked.

"I come out of the fog, and boom, there was the wreck," trucker Jeff Blair said.

Blair said a truck rear-ended his tractor-trailer, but he avoided any other damage by pulling into the median.

A 45-year-old Canadian man, Alex Dragaytsev, was arrested on a charge of vehicular homicide, but that felony was dropped Tuesday. Instead, he 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 four days after several pileups involving nearly 50 vehicles during a blinding snowstorm closed the busy interstate for two days.

The interstate averages more than 6,000 trucks per day.


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