A vehicle recovery caused lengthy delays Monday for drivers on U.S. Highway 550, south of Silverton.
The recovery effort began Saturday and lasted for five hours, but crews had to stop for the day and resume at 11 a.m. Monday, when temperatures were more favorable and conditions were safer, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The crash involved three pieces of equipment, including a Chevy diesel pulling a large Toyota truck in a car hauler, said DeAnne Gallegos, spokeswoman with San Juan County.
“I guess some chains were breaking when they were attempting to pull it up,” said Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with CDOT.
U.S. Highway 550 was closed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday while Animas Towing worked to bring the equipment up from the hillside. The towing company was able to retrieve one piece of equipment but must return Thursday to remove the final piece of equipment.
Wayne Barger, owner of Animas Towing, said the terrain on the side of the road has made retrieving the wreckage from the crash site difficult.
“We’re fighting big boulders that are probably 3 feet by 4 feet that we’re trying to get this truck to go over,” he said.
Gallegos said three people were in the vehicle. “They hit the edge and it started to go over the edge and the three gentlemen jumped out. It was pretty burly,” she said.
Barger said it’s not uncommon for vehicles to slide off the road in that area, as there is a lack of sunlight.
“It gets about two hours of sun and freezes back up again,” he said.
CDOT said southbound traffic was stopped at Silverton and northbound traffic was stopped at Molas Lake for the vehicle recovery.
Barger said the truck wasn’t prepared to travel that section of Highway 550 this time of year.
“This particular vehicle didn’t have chains setup, and really they just weren’t prepared for the snow and ice,” he said. “I would highly recommend someone who’s coming this direction be prepared with chains and are at least equipped to travel in snow.”
The Colorado State Patrol said it is aware of another crash that occurred about 2 p.m. Dec. 7 on the south side of Coal Bank Pass, near the base at mile marker 51.5. The driver may have suffered minor injuries, but did not need transporting, according to a CSP spokesman in Denver.