AGATE, Colo. - Ice, fog and high speeds are being blamed for a multi-vehicle pile-up near Agate, that forced the closure of Interstate 70 for several hours Friday.
Investigators say the initial collision in the westbound lanes was minor, but those that followed became worse as the drivers tried to avoid impact.
"It became an accordion effect," said Trooper Josiah Ii, of the Colorado State Patrol.
Justin Caswell and his girlfriend, Molly Medow, were caught in the middle of that accordion, while driving from Kentucky to Aurora.
"We were between a bunch of semis," Medow said. "One of them started to jacknife in front of us. Our SUV slid underneath it."
The couple's windshield collapsed inward upon impact.
"I tried to duck as much as I could," Caswell said. "The top of the roof caved in and was pretty much right in front of my face."
Medow said that after the collision the semi next to them "started leaking fuel like crazy."
"It happened very fast," she said. "In the time it took me to get my seatbelt off, the semi was already engulfed in flames."
The smoke was visible for miles and was so thick that troopers had had to close down the eastbound lanes for awhile.
Trooper Ii said the truck that caught fire was carrying tar and adhesive and that some of the cans started to explode.
"That's when one of our dogs took off," Medow said. "We had four dogs. We tried to grab the others. It was just chaos."
Investigators say that in all, 11 trucks and one SUV were involved in the chain reaction collision which started at 8:20 a.m.
Ii said two motorists were transported to an area hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Caswell and Medow suffered cuts from broken glass but said they were okay.
According to CDOT the multi-vehicle crash was actually four separate pileups.
Agate, Limon, Deer Trail, and Simla fire departments responded to the crashes, according to Elbert County spokesperson Kara Gerczynski.