The Wyoming Department of Transportation is temporarily closing state Highway 28 between Farson and Lander Wednesday morning to recover a semitrailer that went off the road and down an embankment during a blizzard last week.
The closure is expected from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers, adding that a private company will extract the tanker trailer, which was carrying a 114,000-pound load of molten sulfur. It lies 200 feet down a steep embankment about 23 miles south of Lander.
Beers said four hours should be long enough to extract the trailer, but it will be a process to do it.
“People will need to sit at the ‘Road Closed’ gates, wait for it to open and be patient,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “We need the whole road to extract the truck safely.”
Spun Off The Road
William Tenlen was driving the truck on Wyoming Highway 28 on Dec. 7, hauling the tanker trailer and an attached pup trailer. He was driving through winter conditions and approaching Limestone Mountain when he had the first sign of trouble.
“When I first spun out on South Pass, I chained up,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “By the time I got going, I tore up all my chains where I didn't have any chains left. But I made it to the top, climbing up out of Beaver Creek (Nordic Ski Area).”
When the truck started spinning again, Tenlen started lugging the engine down to 20 mph, but the truck died in the attempt. When Tenlen attempted to restart the truck, with the brake pushed in and his foot on the clutch, he started sliding downhill.
“I pulled the parking brakes, and she kept sliding … I slid down about 100 feet,” he said. “Then my pup (trailer) jackknifed into my main trailer, and then the pup broke loose from the front axle.”
Tenlen slid down another 100 feet when his semitruck jackknifed into the tanker trailer. That sent the vehicle off the road and 200 feet down an embankment.
Aside from a stiff neck and a “little bitty cut” on his hand, Tenlen said he was mostly intact after the crash. He exited the truck about five minutes after without his glasses or phone, which he couldn’t locate.
Tenlen made it back top the highway, hoping someone would pick him up and let him use a phone to report the accident. That was tricky with WYDOT snowplow trucks working to keep the highway clear in the winter weather.
“A couple from Utah pulled over and let me in their pickup,” he said. “Then the snowplow returned and told us to park off the road because the weather conditions were whiteout one minute and clear the next.”
Beers said Tenlen would’ve been driving through the area hit hardest by the storm.
“Once you climb to the top of the South Pass, there's no snow,” he said. “It was all pretty much in this valley.”
Eventually, Tenlen was picked up by the Wyoming Highway Patrol, which took him back to Limestone Mountain where he could call his boss and others to let them know he was OK.
Despite the crash, Tenlen said the load of molten sulfur is secure.
“Nothing leaked out at all,” he said. “Not even a single drop.”
Tenlen is on a two-month leave of absence from work to recover and attend physical therapy for his neck.
WYDOT plans to extract the trailer Wednesday morning. The four-hour closure is noted on WYDOT’s website and the 511 app.
Beers said anyone who doesn’t want to wait for the closure to end can take alternate routes, mainly following U.S. 287/WY 789 between Lander and Rawlins to reach Interstate 80 or U.S. 26/287 through Dubois and Jackson. Or, they could enjoy a brief diversion while they wait.
“There's only long alternative routes,” he said. “So, you could stop at Lander or Riverton, have a nice lunch, and relax. When you're done relaxing, the road will be reopened.”
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.