By Rick Sallinger

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Three years after a truck lost its brakes coming down Interstate 70 and crashed into traffic, killing four people and leaving 10 others injured, a second runaway truck ramp is being planned for Mount Vernon Canyon. Just days after the April 2019 incident, Colorado engineers began asking what can be done to prevent this from happening again.

(credit: CBS)

Stephen Harelson, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Chief Engineer was there the day that it happened.

“Absolutely, worst day of my life,” he recalled.

Among those who were injured but survived the crash was Meleia Harsch, an emergency medical technician who was pregnant.

“I didn’t want to lose my baby, I didn’t even know the gender yet so I didn’t want that to happen,” she told CBS4.

Thankfully it didn’t.

The crash occurred when the driver of a truck lost its brakes coming out of the mountains. There was a runaway truck ramp on I-70 in Mount Vernon Canyon, but he missed it and soon barreled into stopped traffic near Colorado Mills.

(credit CBS)

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was the that driver. CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger asked him last November why he didn’t take the ramp, he had no good answer.

“When you lost your brakes your mind is blocking,” he said in an interview at the Jefferson County Jail.

After being sentenced to 110 years, he is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence reduced by the governor, but what happened here could happen again.

Now CDOT has plans to put in an additional runaway truck ramp.

Sallinger asked CDOT engineer Kevin Brown, “If we had had this second ramp, might this tragedy have been avoided?”

He replied, “That’s what we are thinking.”

(credit CBS)

CBS4 drove along with CDOT chief engineer Stephen Harelson to see where the ramp will go. It’s down below the existing ramp which will now be shortened at the top to make it more
visible for truck drivers who will be guided by lights.

Brown added, “There will be another accident, another tragic crash, if we do nothing.”

The favored plan now is for the new ramp to be between the Morrison and C-470 exits on the left side of the road the side Aguilera-Mederos was traveling.

Crash survivor Harsch wondered, “Is it going to help, because the last one didn’t, so at least it’s being done.”

A high barrier with a NASCAR-type fence on top will separate traffic.

It is all hoped to be started later this year, to prevent another brakeless truck from causing a deadly crash.

Rick Sallinger