One dies in crash with snowplow on U.S. 34 east of Kersey; 4th Weld traffic fatality in two days | MyWindsorNow.com

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One dies in crash with snowplow on U.S. 34 east of Kersey; 4th Weld traffic fatality in two days

Still notifying families

The Weld County Coroner’s office has not released names of the four people who died in traffic crashes Wednesday night and Thursday morning. According to Coroner Carl Blesch, the office is still working with the Greeley Police Department to contact families of the victims. He added one person’s family is out of the country, which complicates matters.

Wintry conditions and slick, icy roads from Wednesday night's freezing rain probably contributed to a fatal crash involving a snowplow and a Honda SUV on Thursday morning just east of Kersey. The crash claimed one life, left another person with serious injuries, and shut down westbound traffic on U.S. 34 in the area for about four hours.

The crash, which was Weld's eighth traffic-related fatality of the year, came in the wake of an especially treacherous Wednesday night, when a rare, sleety rain storm coated roads and highways in a layer of ice, and contributed to the deaths of three people. Through this date last year, four people had died as the result of traffic crashes in Weld County. Wednesday night and Thursday's fatalities alone doubled that number.

Colorado State Patrol spokesperson Trooper Josh Lewis said the storm did not hit other parts of the state as hard.

"Northern Colorado really got the brunt of it," he said.

According to Lewis, troopers arrived on the scene of Thursday's crash east of Kersey about 10:50 a.m. They found a 2003 Honda SUV had collided with a snowplow, and one person, who troopers believe to be the driver of the SUV, dead on the scene. Lewis added the SUV's passenger was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. He said the crash is still under investigation, and the deceased person's name has not been released.

The Kersey Police Department also responded to the scene, according to Sgt. Rick Florence. Florence said Kersey officers assisted in closing the road and controlling traffic.

Traffic crashes involving snowplows aren't uncommon, according to Jared Fiel, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"We have a lot of vehicles out on the road, and sadly they get involved in incidents," he said.

He said he's heard of crashes involving snowplows before, and added he'd seen an unusually high number of them this past year. He said Colorado State Patrol troopers always interview CDOT drivers after a crash, and added the department has its own, in-house procedures it conducts to ensure the drivers make a full recovery.

"We have an in-house counseling staff, because obviously this has an impact on people," Fiel said.

He added in his experience, crashes involving snowplows often occur when other drivers try to pass them on the road. Often, he said, the drivers will spin out on the snow in front of the plow, although he wasn't sure if that is how Thursday's crash occurred.

"Snowplows are doing their job and drivers (shouldn't) try to pass them," said Sgt. Fred Meyer, who leads the Greeley Police Department's traffic unit. "It gets dicey and (drivers) need to be patient."

Of the four traffic fatalities that occurred in Weld County, none took place within Greeley's city limits, a fact Meyer said he was thankful for. He said although traffic crashes involving snowplows do occur from time to time on Greeley's streets, dangerous situations are more likely to occur on open highways.

"Out on highways you get your higher speeds," he said. "There's a lot of blow-off of snow coming off (the snowplows)."

Fiel echoed those sentiments, and said drivers should use extra caution when driving near a CDOT vehicle.

"Be careful when you see the folks in orange," he said.