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Victim of fatal crash on U.S. Highway 491 is identified

A head-on crash involving a tanker truck killed a person in a passenger vehicle Wednesday afternoon on U.S. Highway 491 north of Cortez, according to the Colorado State Patrol. The highway was closed between Road S and Colorado Highway 184. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Head-on crash with semitrailer caused vehicles to catch fire

The Montezuma County coroner has released the identity of the driver who was killed in a head-on crash that caused both vehicles to catch fire on Nov. 24 on U.S. Highway 491.

Brittany S. Meyer of Dove Creek died in the collision, said Coroner George Deavers. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma, he said.

The crash occurred about 3 p.m. near mile marker 36, and closed the highway for several hours at the intersection of County Road S and at the intersection of Colorado Highway 184.

Meyer, 36, was driving a Dodge Durango southbound when it entered the northbound lane and collided with a northbound semitrailer, according to an initial report from the Colorado State Patrol.

Jan 25, 2022
Update: Head-on crash kills driver on U.S. Highway 491 north of Cortez
Jan 25, 2022
Update: Driver and victim in fatal crash on Colorado Highway 184 identified

Both vehicles caught fire. The truck driver, identified as Paul M. Baker, 37, of Huntsville, Utah, was able to self extricate was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital.

An empty tanker truck erupted in flames after a collision Wednesday on U.S. Highway 491 north of Cortez. Shelly Griffin/Special to The Journal

Although Meyer’s body was burned inside the vehicle, Deavers said the impact of the crash killed her before the fire started. The autopsy did not indicate smoke inhalation, he said.

Fire departments from Lewis-Arriola and Pleasant View responded to the crash and fire. Montezuma County Sheriff deputies, Colorado State Patrol, Southwest Health System ambulance and Colorado Department of Transportation also responded to the scene.

The semitrailer was a tanker type, but was empty except for some residue. The fires from both vehicles put up a large plume of black smoke visible from miles away. It also triggered a grass fire, said Deavers, who also is the Lewis-Arriola fire chief.

Fire crews used foam to douse the fire of both vehicles, and it was put out by 3:30 p.m.

Shelly Griffin was on her way home to Lewis when she and her husband were stopped in traffic behind the crash.

She was dismayed to see that vehicles were not pulling over to the side of the road for emergency vehicles.

“They were forced to weave around them to get to the crash,” she said.

Griffin was on the side of the road a short distance from the crash. Amid the black billowing smoke and with a tanker fire nearby, the couple decided to turn around after a few minutes.

“It is going to blow up,” she thought.

The crash remains under investigation by the Colorado State Patrol.