DENVER - One person was killed and 30 people were injured in pileups involving 104 vehicles on Interstate 25 in Denver Saturday morning.
Traffic was at a standstill for more than a mile after the pileups, which occurred between University and Downing just before 11 a.m. I-25 was closed for nearly five hours, finally reopening at 3:50 p.m.
Denver fire personnel and paramedics attended to the many injured. Numerous ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals.
"This is a very difficult scene, it’s scattered over a long distance under difficult conditions and we’re doing everything we can to get people safe, get them transported and those who didn’t have injuries, keep them warm and dry," said Denver Health chief paramedic Scott Bookman.
Denver Health Medical Center said that paramedics reported 30 people were transported from the scene: 14 were taken to Denver Health, 12 were taken to Swedish Medical Center and four to St. Anthony Hospital. Some of the injured were children.
One person involved in the crash told 7NEWS reporter Molly Hendrickson that "cars were sliding in all directions" when the pileup happened. Witnesses said a heavy but brief band of snow descended in the area at that time.
"It literally just whited out and my brakes weren't stopping (the car). And then all of a sudden cars just started hitting everybody," said one driver.
"It just kept being a chain reaction, cars hitting and hitting and hitting and hitting each other. You didn’t dare move," said Kimberly Fowler.
Another driver told Eric Lupher of 7NEWS that "everybody was driving normal speed and then all of sudden there was a wall of red and everybody started spinning."
The driver who was killed in the wreck was not identified. Her red vehicle was rammed into the back of a semitrailer, its roof peeled back and lodged under the semitrailer. She was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in her vehicle was seriously injured.
"I saw the guy get out. He had blood all over him. Then they told us that there was a lady in there too who didn't make it," a witness said.
The non-injured drivers of wrecked cars were put onto RTD buses to keep them warm while they waited for their cars to be towed and investigators to question them.
Wrecked cars were towed to All City Stadium, a parking lot near South High School.
Drivers blamed icy roads and snowy conditions for the chain reaction pileup.
CDOT said it had 100 plows with four tankers working the highways since Friday night. CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said the roads were in fairly "OK condition" although it's not clear when the plows passed over that stretch of I-25.
-- I-70 uses 'wave escorts' --
Adverse weather and subsequent crashes also affected Interstate 70, closing eastbound I-70 at Silverthorne, Vail Pass and Dotsero Saturday morning. Those areas have since reopened.
Wave escorts were also implemented on westbound I-70 during peak times Saturday morning. During this time, plows were working to clear the roads of snow and ice while traffic was being held in order to maintain public safety and improve traction.
CDOT said wave escorts are implemented along the corridor to ensure that traffic can move steadily up the hill without having to stop and encounter possible traction issues. Wave escorts are designed to keep traffic rolling, resulting in fewer delays on a heavily congested weekend in inclement weather.
CDOT said it cannot allow backups in or around the Eisenhower Tunnel for the safety of the traveling public. When wave escorts are implemented, motorists should anticipate stops in Silverthorne or Frisco where they will wait for an escort up the mountain by Colorado State Patrol. Troopers will be stationed ready to lead waves of motorists up the mountain and through the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Motorists going through Silverthorne should anticipate wave escorts to continue well into the evening due to traffic volumes and adverse winter weather.
By holding traffic in these locations during adverse weather, snowplows are given an empty roadway to perform echelon plowing. Echelon plowing is when snow plows line up at an angle along the corridor. This type of plowing is the most effective and efficient method of clearing snow and ice from the roadway as evenly as possible in the least amount of time, providing motorists a clear and safe roadway.
All commercial vehicles were instructed to exit at Dotsero and staged releases are being set up at this time for those vehicles along the corridor. Loveland Pass remains closed with no estimated time for reopening. CDOT is working to ensure the volume of motorists traveling along this mountain corridor are safe and encourage the traveling public to ensure their vehicles are properly equipped for conditions, to drive according to winter conditions when appropriate and to anticipate heavy delays when traveling during peak times.