WAMSUTTER, Wyo. — Following a massive vehicle pileup on Interstate 80 that caused several injuries and 4 fatalities on Sunday afternoon, the city of Rawlins is currently dealing with an overflow of victims en masse.
According to Memorial Hospital of Carbon County spokesperson Stephanie Hinkle, as of early Monday afternoon 30 people have been treated in the hospital emergency room, two were admitted and another two were scheduled for emergency surgeries.
“Upon arrival at the hospital, patients were initially triaged in the cafeteria due to the overflow,” Hinkle said. “Dr. Johnson, Dr. Hodde, Dr. Lumb, Dr. Rice and Dr. Abels were all on site as well as nurses from multiple departments. There were three fatalities and we have learned that one fatality occurred at the Rock Springs hospital.”
Around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday was when emergency services were called near mile markers 179 and 190, which are in close vicinity to Crescent Junction at the town of Wamsutter. Hinkle said the pileup, which involved more than 100 vehicles comprised of various tractor-trailers, trucks and cars, warranted a total of 10 ambulances, including EMT vehicles from Memorial Hospital of Carbon County as well as from the towns of Baggs, Wamsutter, Saratoga, Hanna, Castle Rock and Green River.
Along with ambulances, school buses from both Sweetwater and Carbon counties helped haul survivors to nearby shelters. According to Carbon County Emergency Manager Ron Brown, victims were taken to a Rawlins armory, where they were given cots, blankets and food supplies.
“We’ve got 10 folks right now as of this morning,” Brown told the Rawlins Times early Monday afternoon.
Right before the local City Market grocery closed for the night on Sunday, Brown said they were contacted and immediately provided approximately 50 meals for the survivors. This includes items such as cold sandwiches, chicken, cookies, donuts, sports drinks and water, among other items. Brown also praised the efforts of the Rawlins Fire Department for bringing the items to the armory.
“They stood up to the plate and boy did they knock it out of the park,” Brown said.
Additionally, the county is currently working with the Red Cross to provide survivors further assistance, like finding alternative shelter.
According to Carbon County Fire Warden Chief John Rutherford, the Carbon County Fire Department was called to the first crash at 3:42 p.m. on Sunday, at milepost 184. A second crash then occurred at 3:56 p.m. that day, at milepost 187. A series of crashes then took place at 4:25 p.m., at milepost 179.
Rutherford further said that assisting fire crews finally left the scene around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Along with fire departments from Carbon and Sweetwater counties, Wyoming Highway Patrol as well as Sweetwater and Carbon County sheriff’s offices, fire departments from Wamsutter as well as Baggs were also called to assist.
On scene, first responders conducted triage efforts, where they started “cutting folks out of the vehicles.”
Rutherford was asked about the direct cause behind the massive pileup.
“My guess, talking to some of the county firemen,” Rutherford said, “poor visibility and slick roads.”
Rutherford was also asked to describe the carnage.
“There’s really no words for it,” he said. “It’s just so unfortunate that these incidents happen, that we don’t seem to learn… we don’t seem to learn for our history. We drive on slick roads — we do that all the time — but it’s the fact that we drive too fast in rough conditions, we can’t see far enough, we don’t slow down enough that we can react to a problem to where we can get stopped or at least get off to the side of the road… and it compounds itself.”
With the majority of emergency services now off scene, the Wyoming Highway Patrol still remains. Rutherford said they’ll soon start the process of sketching the entire scene, documenting the location of each vehicle and searching for any additional injuries or fatalities.
“That’s going to be a long process,” he said. “My guess is that it will probably take patrol maybe 24 hours, maybe longer.”
Interstate 80 between Rock Springs and Rawlins has been closed down since 7 p.m. Sunday, and won’t likely open up until Tuesday morning.