By Wyoming Highway Patrol
Two crashes in two separate parts of Wyoming yesterday (July 11th) are reminding us of the importance of moving over and/or slowing down when approaching stopped emergency vehicles and as a general safety courtesy for broken down vehicles as well.
A fatal crash with motorists changing a tire north of Kaycee and a non-fatal crash involving a traffic stop with a Wyoming State Trooper west of Rock Springs both resulted in crashes as oncoming traffic did not merge away into the farthest lane from the stopped vehicles.
The fatal crash was north of Kaycee, Wyoming and resulted in the death of 66 year old Lamar, Colorado resident Clifford VanCampen. The crash occurred at 10:23 a.m. on July 11th near mile post 270 on Interstate 25 northbound approximately 16 miles north of Kaycee.
At the time of the crash, Clifford VanCampen was outside of his vehicle changing a tire on a car dolly that had been loaded with a passenger car while being towed by a 2000 Coachmen Motorhome. The motorhome, car dolly and the passenger car that had been on the car dolly were all parked off the travel lanes of I-25 on the east emergency shoulder. Brenda VanCampen, a 65 year old Lamar resident, was also out of the vehicle assisting with the tire change.
As the VanCampens were changing the tire on the driver’s side (left side, closest to the northbound travel lanes) of the car dolly, they were both struck by a northbound 2014 Freightliner commercial truck towing a trailer. The Freightliner was being driven by 56 year old Creal Springs, Illinois resident Tammera Simmons.
Clifford VanCampen sustained fatal injuries on scene. Brenda VanCampen was initially transported by ground ambulance to the Johnson County Healthcare Center in Buffalo, Wyoming before being transported by helicopter ambulance to Wyoming Regional Medical Center in Casper, Wyoming. She has been hospitalized from her injuries.
Tammera Simmons was not physically injured.
Troopers are investigating high wind speeds (35 mph gusts) at the time of the crash as a contributing factor in this crash as Simmons stated to investigators that a strong gust of wind pushed the truck and trailer she was driving into the emergency lane. The location of the VanCampens at the time of the crash is also being investigated to determine if one of the VanCampens was in the travel lane or not at the time of the crash.
Potential charges in this crash are pending as the case has been referred to the Johnson County Attorney’s Office for review. This crash marked the 45th highway fatality in Wyoming for 2016. There were 70 fatalities during this same time period in 2015.
The second crash occurred on the 11th around 8:30 a.m. on Interstate 80 eastbound at mile post 100 just west of Rock Springs, Wyoming. A Wyoming State Trooper had stopped a pickup truck for speeding and was filling out paperwork when an eastbound commercial truck barely missed the parked patrol car and crashed into the stopped pickup truck.
The driver of the stopped pickup, 35 year old Shiela Jasso, and her passenger, 27 year old Raul Hernandez, both from Northglenn, Colorado, were not seriously injured. Shiela Jasso had minor injuries, was checked out by an ambulance crew on scene and required no further treatment.
The driver of the commercial truck, 52 year old Brian Puffpaff, of Layton, Utah, was not injured. Puffpaff stated that he was reaching for a bottle of water when he struck the pickup.
Puffpaff was cited for failing to maintain a single lane and for not moving over for a parked emergency vehicle.
These two incidents remind us all on the importance of merging away from stopped emergency vehicles on an interstate and slowing down on a two-lane highway. Wyoming Statute 31-5-224, commonly known as the “Move Over Law”, states that when drivers are approaching a parked emergency vehicle using any visual signals they are to merge into the farthest lane from the emergency vehicle when driving on an interstate highway or other highway with two or more lanes of travel in the same direction. When approaching an emergency vehicle using any visual signals and parked on the shoulder of a two lane road, drivers are expected to slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit.
Although it is not listed in the law, it is also common courtesy and common sense to apply these same rules when encountering a broken down motorist or anyone stopped on the side of the road.