Canadian man charged after chain reaction crash in Wyoming

Among the 59 vehicles involved in the pile-up was a tanker containing a flammable liquid that caught fire

LARAMIE, Wyo. – A Quebec man has been arrested on a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide following a massive chain-reaction crash on a highway in southeast Wyoming.

Trucks and cars piled into one another Monday in dense fog on Interstate 80, resulting in a fiery crash that killed one person and sent up a column of thick black smoke.

The pileup occurred around 8 a.m., after two commercial trucks collided, causing one to jackknife in both westbound lanes, Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. David Wagener said.

Dozens of other vehicles piled into the crash. Among the 59 vehicles involved was a tanker containing a flammable liquid that caught fire and required foam to put it out.

An estimated 20 to 25 people were taken to Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie. Of those, three were admitted and one was transferred to a hospital in Denver.

Wagener said Alex Dragaytsev, 45, of Longueuil, Que., was arrested on a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide after the crash.

The blaze produced heavy smoke that irritated eyes. It burned for hours, delaying cleanup and investigation of the wreck, Wagener said. It was unclear when the interstate in a rural area 29 kilometres west of Laramie would reopen.

The crash occurred four days after several pileups during a blinding snowstorm closed the busy interstate for two days.

In both cases, poor visibility was a factor. However, authorities were still investigating and could not say whether the latest wreck involved motorists travelling too fast for the conditions, as occurred in last week’s crashes.

“It’s going to take a lot of time because it’s a big mess,” Wagener said, adding that traffic was being rerouted around the crash on secondary highways.

Last Thursday, several pileups involving nearly 50 vehicles occurred during a snowstorm between Cheyenne and Laramie. There were no fatalities in last week’s crashes, but it wasn’t until Saturday that all of I-80 was reopened.

Troopers were still investigating, but the primary cause of those wrecks was vehicles travelling too fast for the conditions, Patrol Lt. Tim Romig said Monday.

In neighbouring Colorado, two people injured when a tour bus carrying Brooklyn-based performer Twin Shadow crashed into a tractor-trailer Friday on a foggy stretch of Interstate 70 remain in serious condition.

Brooke Black, a publicist for Twin Shadow, the stage name of George Lewis Jr., also said Monday that he was among the 12 people injured in the crash on Friday and will undergo reconstructive hand surgery.

Bus driver John Crawford and drummer Andy Bauer remained hospitalized after the crash.

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