Wreck involving a truck hauling bentonite closed Wind River Canyon for at least four hours Monday evening

U.S. Highway 20 through the Wind River Canyon was closed about 4 hours late Monday through Tuesday morning as wreckers recovered a crashed big rig from Windy Point. (Auto & RV Specialties photo)

(Thermopolis, Wyo.) – According to initial Wyoming Highway Patrol reports, a crash involving a semi-truck carrying bentonite through the Wind River Canyon closed both lanes of traffic for approximately four hours Monday night into Tuesday morning. The road closure was necessitated for two large wreckers to remove the trailer of the semi from a slope leading down to the Wind River.

The driver, according to reports, was uninjured.

A report of a wreck near Windy Point came in to law enforcement at 6:48 p.m. on Monday, according to Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Adams in Fremont County. A commercial vehicle, a tractor trailer combination, had its load of bagged bentonite shift while the driver negotiated a turn on the highway, he lost control and the truck struck and went through the guard rail, taking out a considerable length of the railing.  While the cab of the truck remained alongside the highway, the trailer was sliced open by the guard rail, spilling all of its contents and it ended up perpendicular to the road. None of the bentonite or leaking fuel from the tractor unit entered the Wind River, according to Joe Sova of Thermopolis, who was at the scene taking photographs for the Independent-Record. Fire crews from Thermopolis were able to stop the leak before any of the fuel reached the river. Traffic was one-way during this time frame.

According to Cristie Wells, who owns Auto and RV Specialities of Thermopolis with her husband Bill, it took two of their large wreckers to drag the trailer up an embankment and onto its wheels. Wells said they responded to the scene at 7:30 p.m. to assess what was needed, and once the recovery started, it took about four hours to finish. “The trailer kept hanging up on rocks,” she said. Once on the highway, the trailer was righted onto its wheels and the wreckers were able to tow the wreckage away.

According to WHP reports, both ends of the canyon were closed some time after 11 p.m. in order for crews to remove the vehicle from the river. The highway was not reopened until approximately 4:30  a.m.

–Managing Editor Ernie Over contributed to this report

Click here to see video of the rig being set upright again.

Photos courtesy of Auto & RV Specialties of Thermopolis, mouse over for captions, click to enlarge.