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Plane-Wrecked Casper City Councilman Bruce Knell Discusses 3,700-Foot Fall From Sky

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Bruce Knell doesn’t remember falling 3,700 feet in seven seconds, but he remembers hitting the ground.

The Casper City Councilman and his wife Stacy were flying on Thursday from Casper to St. George, Utah for a golf tournament, when Knell’s six-seater Lancair plane lost power over a field one mile from the St. George Regional Airport.  

“I remember losing power,” Knell told Cowboy State Daily from his bed in St. George Regional Hospital. He said he couldn’t recall the exact sensation of his rapid fall. The plane “just literally fell out of the sky.”  

“I did everything I could to keep it upright and try to glide it as much as I could, which is probably what saved us,” said Knell, adding that he also believed divine intervention had been in play. “I think it goes a little deeper than that, if you believe like I do.”  

An agent from the National Transportation Safety Board told Knell on Saturday that “he’s never seen anything like this – and someone walk away from it.”  

Knell’s strongest memory was of the impact, which was “really hard.”    

Although he and his wife were both conscious when emergency personnel responded, he could not recall interacting with first responders on scene. The pair were rushed to the hospital, where Knell is being fitted for a custom back brace. His back, he said, is broken in four places; his sternum is broken, and the inside of his mouth is “cut up pretty bad.”  

Knell already had fusions in his back and had undergone back surgery in Casper last October. The “major hardware implantation” in from last autumn is now preventing doctors from operating on his back again, he said, but “they are going to put it in a brace for now.”  

“It doesn’t help when you fall out of the sky in a plane and you already have back issues,” he said, adding that his current pain level is “nothing like I’ve ever felt.”  

The exact cause of the power outage and subsequent crash are unknown but under investigation, Knell said.

The Federal Aviation Administration arrived on scene to investigate Friday, according to the Washington City Police Department

‘Prayers for My Wife’  

But Knell’s wife is in worse shape than he is, he said. He hoped the community would pray for her. 

Stacy Knell was transported to a Las Vegas hospital for care and is suffering from at least four breaks in her back, facial lacerations, and brain bleeding.  

Knell said his wife on Saturday morning had reported a “pretty rough night, not knowing where she was or why she was there,” due to the brain bleeding. He was insistent upon finishing his treatments and being cleared from the Utah hospital as soon as possible so that he could be with her. 

Stacy Knell underwent a six-hour back surgery Friday, he said.  

New Plane  

Knell said he’s been flying under a private license since about 2010 or 2011. The orange and white plane that went down on Thursday was a new purchase which he bought in December. It had a “brand new” factory-built motor in it and had performed well on previous flights.  

“I’ve flown it from Austin, Texas, to Casper, and flew around Casper quite a bit,” said Knell. “When we flew it down here, the flight here was awesome – until a mile from landing.”  

The couple had planned to attend a golf tournament in St. George and then fly from there to New Orleans for Stacy Knell’s daughter’s wedding next weekend.  

“So we’ll be missing that,” he said.  

Knell has just begun his second year in Casper City Council.

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Casper City Councilman Bruce Knell And Wife In Plane Accident In Utah

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Casper City councilman Bruce Knell's plane.

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper City Councilman and his wife Stacy were injured Thursday when the airplane they were flying in crashed near St. George, Utah.

“I was in a plane crash,” Bruce Knell told Cowboy State Daily from St. George Regional Hospital on Friday. “In fact, I’m in the hospital now.”   

Knell cut the call short to undergo treatment for his injuries.   

A later text to his phone requesting follow-up was answered by a message stating “He is currently in surgery,” and that he would be out of surgery and in recovery later that day.   

Emergency personnel in Washington City, near St. George, were alerted Thursday to the crash of a small four-seat airplane carrying a man and woman, Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams confirmed in a phone interview.  

Upon discovery of the wreckage, the man reported lacerations and back pain; the woman reported arm and face lacerations with a possible broken jaw.  

Williams noted that the male in the plane was believed “possibly, to have a broken back due to the crash.”  

They were both conscious, but the pilot was unable to give details on the crash, said William.  

“According to what we were told by other airport personnel,” said Williams, “it looked like the plane had lost power, but we haven’t been able to confirm that, and we don’t have those specific details.”

The man and woman were initially taken to St. George Hospital, but Knell’s wife since has been transported to University Medical Center in Las Vegas due to the severity of her injuries.  

The plane crashed in what Williams called a “pretty barren” field about one mile southeast of St. George Regional Airport. The crash did not damage any residential property.

The Federal Aviation Administration is the investigative agency over the case.  

Casper City manager J. Carter Napier on Thursday expressed “sincere wishes” for the Knells’ “sustained health and recovery,” in a public statement confirming both husband and wife are hospitalized with “serious injuries.”  

Investigators were still on scene Friday, according to the Washington City Police Department.   

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Man Dies After Hitting Tree While Skiing In Jackson

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was killed Thursday morning after hitting a tree while skiing, officials from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort said.

The man collided with a tree on Gros Ventre run at the resort on Thursday morning. Resuscitation efforts were administered on the mountain by the resort’s ski patrol and continued at St. John’s Clinic in Teton Village.

Ultimately, he died from his injuries.

“My deepest condolences go out to the family of the deceased. My heart goes out to everyone involved,” resort president Mary Kate Buckley said.

Resort officials declined to comment further when asked by Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

The name of the victim has not yet been released due to efforts to notify the family of the situation.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 48 reported ski and snowboard fatalities during the 2020-2021 season. The majority of those incidents resulted from collisions with objects.

Men also represented 93% of all skier/snowboarder fatalities.

The latest season’s number of deaths was higher than the 10-year average of 39 fatalities per season.

This is the most recent ski incident to happen in the Jackson area. In January, a skier collided with a 64-year-old woman, which left her with life-threatening injuries.

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Five Semis Involved In Crash Near Evanston, One Person Extricated

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One man had to be removed from the wreckage Tuesday morning after five semi-trucks were involved in a collision on icy Interstate 80 near Evanston.

Uinta County Fire and Ambulance Chief Administrative Officer Eric Quinney told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that it took about two hours to extricate the co-driver from one of the semis, as he had been asleep in the “sleeper” portion of the truck when the crash happened.

“They had to stabilize the truck, since it was the only one that overturned, with specialty equipment and make the proper cuts to get the co-driver out,” Quinney said. “Once we got him out, besides being cold, he was relatively unscathed. It was pretty miraculous.”

Quinney added that firefighters were talking with the man as they worked to extricate him, and he told them during the process that he was wedged in fairly tightly in the sleeper, but was unharmed.

None of the other drivers involved in the collision were harmed.

Once he was extricated, medical professionals checked the man for injuries. He declined transport to a hospital and instead stayed on scene to talk with the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The truck the co-driver was trapped in was hauling products like almond milk. The other trucks involved included an Amazon Prime semi-truck, an RC Willey home furnishings truck and a Ryder truck, all of which were headed westbound at the time of the crash.

Quinney was unsure which of the trucks was the first in the pile-up, but noted that the accident occurred on a stretch of the interstate that turns into a hill, which can be dangerous in snowy and icy weather.

“I would imagine the accident was a chain reaction type of thing,” he said. “But it was awesome that our firefighters worked hard and put all of their training to the test, and it all worked out in the end.”

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Gillette Firefighters Save Three From Truck After It Gets Suspended On Electrical Pole Guidewires

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Campbell County firefighters got an interesting call Friday that involved them rescuing three people from a truck that was suspended almost vertically from a power pole.

Around 8:15 a.m. Friday, firefighters responded to Garner Lake Road in Gillette for a call that a pickup had left the roadway, traveled through the guardrail and up the electrical pole guidewires. The pickup, suspended by the wires, stopped in a nearly vertical position.

Campbell County Fire Department Battalion Chief Kate Eischeid told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that she did not know whether the pickup left the road due to weather conditions or driver inattention.

“If the wires had snapped, like they usually do, the truck probably would have come down hard and rolled to one side or the other,” Eischeid said. “This was probably the better outcome, since the passengers were all restrained, upright and uninjured.”

Once firefighters arrived on the scene, they confirmed with the city’s electric department that the damaged pole and live wires were stable, so they could get the passengers and truck down.

“Once we got the vehicle stabilized, we got a ladder and had the passengers crawl down it through the backseat,” Eischeid said.

It took only about 20 minutes from the time firefighters arrived on the scene to get everyone out of the vehicle. Then, tow trucks helped get the pickup down, but Eischeid could not say whether the truck had been destroyed by the accident.

While the firefighters have seen vehicles in every position they can think of, the Friday incident was unique because of the wires holding the truck upright, Eischeid said.

“I’m proud of my guys and the work they were able to quickly and efficiently do,” she said.

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Snowplow Collisions Almost Triple In Last Two Years In Wyoming

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming snowplows hit while on duty clearing Wyoming’s highways has more than tripled in the last several years.

Wyoming Department of Transportation figures show that in 2020, 26 snowplows were rear-ended, compared to eight in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, the number was 23.

Over the past weekend, another snowplow was hit on 1nterstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, resulting in minor damage to the wing plow on the passenger side. Luckily, the driver was not injured, according to Jordan Achs, senior public relations specialist for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT).

Achs said several factors can be blamed for the growth in collisions, including the white-out conditions the plows to create while clearing the roads.

Their speed is also a contributing factor because to plow effectively requires speeds of 35 to 40 mph, making them a target for drivers going too fast for conditions. 

The mini-blizzards the snowplows create, especially when the wind is blowing, likewise makes them susceptible to being smacked from behind or to have their wing plows hit by drivers who don’t give themselves enough room to pass.

“These issues with visibility and speed can lead to plow strikes,” Achs said. “Especially if drivers are driving too fast for conditions or driving distracted.”

The majority of the accidents are the result of the plows being hit from behind or on the side.

Miraculously, injuries from accidents tend to be low. The last occurred in February 2021 when a plow was hit on Interstate 80 near Rawlins, causing it to flip completely before landing upside down.

That driver was taken to the hospital for injuries. The accident occurred in the midst of a five-day storm that saw nine other plows hit as well.

Most of the snowplow collisions occur on interstates, with 17 of last year’s 26 accidents occurring on Interstates 80, 90 and 25.

With the 15% shortage of snow plow drivers this year, Achs said the department has heard from foreman and staff that recruiting for drivers, particularly on I-80, is getting increasingly difficult because of high speeds, driver inattention and other poor driving habits on the part of other drivers that put snowplow drivers in peril.

Keeping plows safe

Among the safest ways to guard against collisions with snowmobiles is to slow down and drive at speeds appropriate for the conditions, Achs said. 

“Where there’s ice and snow, take it slow,” she said.

Achs said she understand drivers behind snowplows may grow tired of traveling behind them, but added it is vital to give the plows the space they need to work.

Drivers should stay four to five car lengths behind plows and when passing, drivers should wait until the have sufficient space and visibility to do so, Achs said.

She added snowplows should never be passed on the right.

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Wind Speeds Hit 95mph Over the Weekend Creating Numerous Truck Blow-Overs

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

At what point is it best for travelers in Wyoming to stay off its highways because of wind?

If the winds are gusting to hurricane strength, that’s a good signal that it may not be the best time to drive, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT).

Many drivers did not get that memo over the weekend as numerous blow-overs were recorded.

WYDOT hasn’t yet tabulated the number of accidents due to the wind but one traveler documented at least eight blow-overs during her 100-mile journey from Rawlins to Laramie.

Teresa Leroux took to Facebook’s “Wyoming Road and Weather conditions” page to post photos of the downed trucks she witnessed during her drive.

“This is right here why you do not ignore the high wind warnings when driving high profile trucks,” she said. 

Jordan Achs, a spokesperson at WYDOT, said the area between Rawlins and Laramie — specifically mentioning Cooper Cove about 35 miles west of Laramie — is one of the windiest areas in the state, along with Arlington on Interstate 80 and Bordeaux on Interstate 25.

These aren’t the only places where gusts can register to be hurricane strength. On Sunday, a wind gust outside of Clark, Wyoming, in northern Park County registered 95 mph.

Arlington wasn’t far behind, however notching a wind gust of 85 mph. Winning the bronze medal for the weekend was a location 18 miles northwest of Buffalo with an 82 mph gust.

WYDOT’s road and weather condition website says if the winds are gusting to more than 60 mph, it’s not a good idea to be on the road.

“Research does show that when wind gusts exceed 60 mph, it is almost certain that multiple vehicles will be blow over or be involved in a crash caused by loss of control,” the site says.

“These crashes often result in debris on the highway and a road closure to all vehicles.”

There were plenty of both over the weekend.

According to statistics from the Wyoming Department of Transportation, there were 167 blow-over crashes on Wyoming highways in 2020.

About one-third of the wind-related rollovers in 2020 involved heavy trucks, those weighing more than 26,000 pounds — 61, or 37%.

Only pickup trucks accounted for more rollovers, with 68 such accidents caused by wind.

From there, it’s a steep drop-off, with SUVs involved in 16 blow-over crashes and 11 involving medium trucks, those between 10,000 – 25,999 pounds.

How to know when it’s safe to drive across windy areas of Wyoming?

Achs said the agency’s “511 page” is a good place to investigate. The page is updated continuously, she said, with information about Wyoming roads.

“Know before you go,” Achs said. “We have sustained wind speeds on there as well as gusts. So you can get can get an idea of what’s ahead on your route.”

“The wind definitely does not discriminate,” she said.

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Update: Evanston Woman Killed After Crashing Into Fireworks Warehouse

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By Sheila McGuire and Mark Tesoro, Uinta County Herald

A tragic accident claimed the life of a longtime Evanston resident early on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 14. Fidelina Saavedra, 66, was on her way to work when the car she was driving crashed into Phantom Fireworks on Overthrust Road.

A press release from the Evanston Police Department states officers responded to Phantom Fireworks at 7:14 Sunday morning after receiving a report that a vehicle had crashed into the building and smoke and fire were coming from the vehicle. The 911 caller said the airbags had deployed and it was not possible to tell if anyone was in the vehicle.

There were flames on the hood of the vehicle when officers arrived; however, they were able to locate one person inside and get her out for transport to Evanston Regional Hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries. Officers on scene put out the fire using fire extinguishers.

According to the press release, an examination of the crash site showed that Saavedra’s vehicle had been traveling north on Overthrust Road prior to accelerating to a high rate of speed and leaving the roadway at the intersection of West Cheyenne Drive. The vehicle then traveled across the open field and through the parking lot prior to hitting the Phantom Fireworks building.

The EPD release states the events leading up to the crash are still under investigation and the Wyoming Highway Patrol is assisting in that investigation. The release also states, “The Evanston Police Department would like to remind everyone the value seatbelts play in saving lives and how important they [are], even in town.”

On Monday morning, Saavedra’s family remembered her as a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend. The mother of five and grandmother of 18 was reportedly on her way to work at the Wyoming State Hospital at the time of the accident Sunday morning. They said she had worked as a kitchen aide at WSH for 15-16 years and had been planning on retirement early next year.

Saavedra’s children said their mother was a very kind and selfless woman who would do anything for anybody and was a good friend to everybody.

A devout Catholic, Saavedra loved to give blessings to people, was quick with a hug and a smile and was very social and loved to talk with anyone and everyone. Described as “all about family,” Saavedra also loved to travel to visit her siblings around the country.

As indicated in the press release, Saavedra’s family said they don’t know what happened prior to the crash other than she was on her way to work. They did say, however, that the speculation on social media was upsetting and stressed that their mother did not drink alcohol and that what happened was a terrible accident.

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Intoxicated Driver Collides Head-On With Semi North of Gillette, No Injuries

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A Utah man was arrested late Wednesday night for driving while intoxicated after he reportedly collided head-on with a semi-tractor trailer north of Gillette, authorities said Wednesday.

The crash did not result in any injuries and occurred around 10:15 p.m. near milepost 148 on North Highway 59 just north of Heald Road, according to Campbell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

A 45-year-old male had been traveling south in a 2013 Dodge Ram 4500 when he drifted into the northbound lanes where a 42-year-old male was operating a Western Star semi.

The vehicles collided head-on; the resulting collision pushed the Dodge Ram into the east side ditch and the semi into the west ditch, per Reynolds.

Both vehicles came to rest upright in pastures on either side of the road, according to a release from the Campbell County Fire Department, with each vehicle sustaining over $1,000 in damage.

Emergency Medical Services cleared both drivers of any injuries, Reynolds said.

While WHP troopers were investigating the crash, the 45-year-old male was allegedly found to be intoxicated and was taken into custody.

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Park County School Bus Slides Off Slick Road

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By the Powell Tribune

A Powell school bus driver and student were not injured when a bus slid off a slick road around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The bus had just made its first stop and went around the corner on Road 8 and Lane 4.

It traveled about 300 yards down the road, bucking a few drifts, said Stephen Janes, transportation supervisor for Park County School District 1, then ‘a big wind gust came up [and] pushed the bus to the shoulder.

The soft shoulder gave out and sucked the bus into the ravine.’ Two people on the bus — the driver and one student — were OK, Janes said. ‘We were able to get the bus pulled out a little later in the day,’ he said.

The bus has some damage to the driver’s side, Janes said, ‘but should be back on the road soon.’

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Four Animals Hit on Sublette County Roads in Less Than An Hour; Cow Survives

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

After four animals were hit by vehicles in the span of less than an hour, the Sublette County Sheriff’s office put out a reminder to the public that wildlife this time of year is more likely to be on and around Wyoming’s roads.

“We are at that time of year when animals are migrating, its darker longer and harder to see them. So slow down and give animals a ‘brake’,” the office said in a statement.

Between 5:40am – 6:30am on Tuesday, four animals were struck including two deer, one moose, and a cow. Of those, only the cow survived. No people were injured in the accidents.

“The cow is OK,” Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily. “It walked off. The moose was pretty messed up so they had to put it down. The cow was in good shape, however, with no injuries.”

The spate of vehicle vs. animal accidents in such a short time frame is unusual, Bingham said. But this time of year, motorists should expect to see wildlife on the road, especially between dusk and dawn.

The best way to avoid problems, he said, is to slow down and to stay vigilant.

“Pay particular attention to the barrow ditches on both sides of the road because they can come out of nowhere,” he said.

Although Sublette County does have elevated wildlife crossings and higher fences on some roads to keep wildlife off of busy highways, these could lead motorists to have a false sense of security.

“People think because of the bridges and bigger game fences that the roads will be clear,” Bingham said. “They think animals can’t possibly be on the road, but they still get through.”

Saying that, Bingham did say that the wildlife crossings have made roads safer for both motorists and animals.

“Deer used to get slaughtered through some of these areas,” he said. “So they’ve helped but they still get through.”

Upon approaching wildlife on a highway, sometimes the best strategy is just to apply the brakes and plow into them, he said.

“Swerving into oncoming traffic is a horrible idea because the last thing you want is a head-on,” he said. “And you don’t want to swerve into a ditch either. And you don’t want to lock your breaks with someone right behind you.”

“Sometimes it’s just better to take the hit if you can’t stop and react fast enough rather than to try to swerve,” he said.

Bingham said there have been 128 collisions with wildlife so far this year in Sublette County. Of those accidents, 73% have involved deer. Moose and antelope account for 20% of the accidents.

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Homeless Man Run Over By Semi-Truck In Downtown Cheyenne

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A homeless man was killed Sunday afternoon when he was run over by a semi-truck, Cheyenne police said Monday.

Around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Cheyenne police responded to an incident in downtown Cheyenne in which a man had been run over by a semi. The preliminary investigation showed the man may have fallen asleep after crawling underneath the semi’s trailer.

When the driver returned and started the vehicle, the man underneath was run over by the rear wheels of the trailer as the truck pulled forward.

The victim was identified as Paul Griego, 55. He sustained life-threatening injuries and was declared dead at the scene.

Detectives believe the incident was an accident and are looking to identify and speak with the semi driver.

If anyone has information about the accident, contact CPD at 307-637-6521.

This is the second incident of a person being run over in Cheyenne occurring in less than a week. Last week, during Cheyenne Frontier Days, a man was run over at Frontier Park after he fell out of the bed of a truck he was exiting.

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Jeffree Star Suffers Broken Back, Fractures From Car Accident Near Casper

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

YouTuber and makeup mogul Jeffree Star has shared a multitude of updates regarding his health and well-being following a rollover car accident on Friday morning.

“I’m in excruciating pain because part of my back is broken and I have vertebrae fractures on my spine. My doctor said it will take a few months but I should make a full recovery,” Star wrote on Twitter on Friday following the accident, which he called one of the scariest moments of his life.

Star and his best friend Daniel Lucas were involved in the accident on Friday morning on Hat Six Road near Casper. They were driving northbound when Star’s Rolls Royce hit some slush, causing the car to go off the roadway and roll multiple times.

Lucas, who suffered from internal injuries in the crash, was taken to Las Vegas for surgery, according to Star. Lucas has been treated for colon cancer multiple times, creating medical complications.

Star was discharged from the Wyoming Medical Center on Saturday. He posted photos of his Rolls Royce over the weekend, saying how grateful he was the vehicle was made from reinforced steel, which he said kept Lucas and him alive.

“The pain is 10 times worse than yesterday but we are doing ok. Love you guys so much,” he wrote on Sunday.

The makeup mogul, whose line Jeffree Star Cosmetics is worth about $1.5 billion, is planning a launch for his new line Star Lounge this week, and is attempting to not let the car accident slow him down.

He was still in pain as of Monday morning, but noted that some close friends and family flew in to Wyoming to see him.

Star spent much of the weekend retweeting photos from fans meeting him and Lucas at various events over the years, as well as a post from Lucas saying he wanted to be healthy.

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Jeffree Star Injured In Car Rollover Near Casper

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

YouTuber and makeup mogul Jeffree Star was injured in a rollover collision near Casper on Friday.

In a Twitter post shared to Star’s account Friday, a photo showed the Star lying in a hospital bed wearing a neck brace. He was holding the hand of his best friend, Daniel Lucas.

“A few hours ago Jeffree and Daniel were in a severe car accident and the car flipped 3 times after hitting black ice,” the post said. “We will update you all when the doctor gives us more info. So thankful they are both alive.”

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeremy Beck, Star and Lucas were driving on the Hat Six Road northbound when they encountered some slush in the roadway around 8:30 a.m. Friday.

The car then went off the road and rolled over. Beck didn’t have information on whether Star and Lucas were wearing seatbelts, how fast the vehicle was going or even who was actually driving the car.

“I honestly don’t know a lot about what happened, but we’re still investigating everything,” Beck told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Star and Lucas were taken to the Wyoming Medical Center following the crash and were still there as of early Friday afternoon.

Star has been living in the Casper area since the fall, after he bought a ranch where he could write his autobiography. He has regularly been seen around town since then.

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Cheyenne Gym’s Roof Collapses After Major Snowstorm

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne gym’s roof collapsed due to the nearly 3 feet of snowfall that blanketed the city over the weekend.

CrossFit Frontier was one of the casualties of the recent blizzard, which shut down much of southeastern Wyoming for a second day on Tuesday.

Half of the gym’s roof collapsed on Monday night, the gym said in a social media post.

“Obviously we will be closed for the foreseeable future,” the post said. “We appreciate everyone’s willingness to help with moving things from the gym. However, at this time it is still not safe to be inside as there is still a lot of snow accumulated on the non collapsed side of the building.”

It didn’t appear anyone was hurt when the roof collapsed and all classes had been canceled at the gym on Monday.

The gym’s current location is in the 2400 block of East Seventh Street in Cheyenne, but obviously, a move will be in the business’ future. CrossFit Frontier has been open since 2011, according to its website.

“In the mean time be on the look out for more at home workouts to get you through until we can get reopened,” the gym wrote. “As always, thank you all for your love and support.”

Much of southeastern Wyoming has been affected by the storm in one way or another. Although portions of central and western Wyoming began to see traffic move again on the state’s highways on Tuesday, roads in and out of Cheyenne remained blocked by the heavy snow dropped by the blizzard.

Government offices and schools remained closed in Cheyenne on Tuesday and the Legislature, which rarely stops its work because of weather conditions, suspended proceedings for a second day as the city continued its efforts to clear the roads around the community.

The weekend blizzard left 31 inches of snow on Cheyenne, breaking a 42-year-old record, and the Cheyenne Police Department, on its Facebook page, predicted it could take city snowplow crews several days to finish clearing snow from the community’s roads.

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Two Side-By-Side Rec Vehicles Crash Through Ice At Buffalo Bill Reservoir in Park County

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two side-by-side recreational vehicles crashed through the ice on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir this weekend, prompting the Park County Sheriff’s Office to remind everyone about proper ice recreation safety.

On Sunday, the two vehicles broke through the ice on the North Fork side of the reservoir near Cedar Mountain Point. No one was hurt in the incident and the owners of the vehicles were able to retrieve them without assistance.

However, the Park County Sheriff’s Office used the incident as an educational moment to remind everyone that proper ice recreation safety can mean the difference between life and death.

The thickness of the ice on various bodies of water is very inconsistent this time of year. As the weather continues to warm up, the ice will become more dangerous, the office said.

Certain areas may seem safe but may be very close to areas that are less stable. Anyone who decides to go out on to the ice should always wear a personal floatation device.

Any number of conditions, including stress fractures, air pockets, or overly fatigued ice can cause otherwise strong ice to give way. Without a personal floatation device, a victim can drown within 2 to 15 minutes, depending on the water temperature, due to loss of voluntary muscle control.

Sheriff Scott Steward recommended people not travel onto the ice at this time due to the warm weather and rapidly deteriorating conditions. For those that do venture out on open ice, carry a pair of “ice awls” or “ice picks” with them, preferably on a loop hung around their necks.

“These devices held in each hand will enable the victim to self-rescue by gripping the ice, allowing the victim to pull themselves up and out of the water,” Steward said.

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Three UW Students Killed, Two Injured In Weekend Car Crash

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three University of Wyoming students were killed and two were injured, one critically, in a two-car collision south of the Wyoming state line over the weekend.

The accident occurred late Saturday afternoon on U.S. Highway 287, several miles south of the Wyoming/Colorado state line, according to the university.

The students killed were: Sienna Potter, 18, a first-year student in early childhood education who attended high school outside of London but had family in Laramie; Rebecca Marley, 19, a first-year student in marketing who attended high school in Dubai and had family in The Woodlands, Texas; and William Malone, 21, a senior in computer science from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Two other UW students were injured in the crash. One was reported to be in critical condition Monday at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. The other was hospitalized in Fort Collins.

Three other UW students, traveling in a third vehicle, witnessed the accident.

“Words fail us, as they simply can’t express our sadness,” UW president Ed Seidel said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken for the families, their friends and our entire community.”

The university’s dean of students office has been in contact with all of the family members of the victims and will continue to reach out to those close to those involved in the accident.

“During what has been an extremely challenging academic year for all of us, this unspeakable loss seems to be almost more than our community can bear,” Seidel said. “As we grieve the loss of these students and seek to recover from other tragic and distressful developments in recent weeks and months, let’s do our best and pull together, support those who are suffering, and show the compassion and kindness that characterize what it means to be part of this community.”

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Teton County Search and Rescue Saves Eight Stranded Snowmobilers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eight snowmobilers were saved on Thursday by Teton County Search and Rescue after becoming lost on Beartooth Pass.

According to the SAR team, it was contacted Thursday morning by Park County to do an aerial search for the group of snowmobilers that were reportedly lost on the pass.

The group hadn’t been seen or heard from since Wednesday and spent the night out in the elements.

Park County’s Search and Rescue team determined the group’s location, about six miles from the nearest trailhead, and requested a helicopter evacuation.

The aircraft loaded up two Teton County SAR volunteers and a ranger from Grand Teton National Park and flew to Cody to refuel. The team then flew to the site and successfully transported all eight snowmobilers to safety.

In the past few weeks, the team has responded to incidents in Fremont, Lincoln, and Park counties, as well as Grand Teton National Park. The team has been called out more this year than all of last season.

“We still have very motivated rescuers who are eager to help out in any way they can,” said Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr. “We have this amazing resource available and if another county needs it, we’re absolutely happy to help out.”

Since the beginning of the year, the team has been called out 31 times — responding to events including five fatalities, three involving avalanches. Of the 31 responses, 24 resulted in active missions, more than during the entire previous winter season.

Three people have died in avalanches in northwestern Wyoming since mid-February, two snowboarders and one snowmobiler.

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Lander Woman Provides Eyewitness Account of Togwotee Avalanche Rescue Mission

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander woman was having a normal day last week when she came across the search and rescue mission for the Togwotee avalanche that ultimately claimed the life of a Jackson snowboarder.

Kathi McKee and her husband were about 10 miles from Togwotee Pass and managed to catch much of the rescue on camera, through photos and video.

“We had parked here for the day and when we returned, the helicopter was flying overhead with a SAR person hanging from a rope with the patient bundled in an orange sleeping bag-type bundle,” McKee said.

Michael McKelvey, 31, a seasonal resident of Jackson, died after being caught in an avalanche Thursday near Wind River Lake near the top of Togwotee Pass.

Search and Rescue Chief Advisor Cody Lockhart said a group of snowboarders had built a substantial “kicker” to launch up toward a slope, and when McKelvey landed, it triggered the slide, which Lockhart described as having a 5-foot crown. 

McKelvey was totally buried, but was wearing a beacon and his companions were able to uncover him and begin life support efforts. 

Members of Teton County Search and Rescue were training on snowmobiles a short distance away and were on the scene within 10 to 15 minutes. 

McKee said Teton County Search and Rescue stopped traffic to allow the helicopter to circle and land, so McKelvey could be placed inside and flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“So professionally done. Amazing!” she said.

According to recreation website Teton Gravity Research, McKelvey had been an active member of the Jackson snowboarding community for years.

According to an Instagram post, McKelvey was buried under 12 feet of snow during the avalanche.

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Caught On Video: 18-Wheeler Blows Over On Highway 85 in Southeastern Wyoming

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Living in Wyoming, we all know the dangers of driving in high wind. Even low-profile vehicles can get blown off the road.

On Monday, however, it was one of those days were numerous vehicles fell victim to the February winds.

First it was the Amazon semi that nearly blew off a bridge south of Chugwater on I-25.

Later in the day, a wind gust toppled another 18-wheeler but this time on Wyoming Highway 85 which makes its way through Hawk Springs, Torrington, and Lingle.

But the difference in this wreck is that someone’s dashcam was on and recorded the incident.

“This was intense to watch and a complete fluke to have captured on film this afternoon,” Beth Wood said. “Driver is ok. Thank you to the good people, volunteer fire departments, and dispatch today!”

“PSA: Wyoming’s wind is NO joke! Use caution, people,” she said.

Wood told Cowboy State Daily that she set-up her dashcam so she could show her kids what ‘sleeping semis’ (a phrase describing turned-over 18-wheelers) look like.

“It was a complete fluke that I got behind the semi that blew over in the video, simply because I was trying to get other footage for the kids,” Wood said.

“Growing up in southeast Wyoming I’ve seen lots of ‘sleeping semi’s’ on the side of the road, but have never witnessed it with my own eyes. My heart was definitely doing double time!”

Wood said as soon as her car stopped, she got on the phone and called 911 while two other motorists ran to check on the driver.

“While on the phone with dispatch, I saw one of the good folks jump up on the tipped over cab and pop the drivers door open and talk to the driver,” Wood said.

“A few minutes later another fellow came and told me the driver was ok and that they’d got the windshield broke out so the driver could get out,” she said.

Once EMS showed up, Wood took off because she said there was nothing else she could do.

“I left because my fiancé is on the Hawk Springs V.F.D. and nothing is more frustrating than the “extra” people who get in the way simply because they are ‘lookie-loos’” she said.

What’s crazy about this accident is that the truck blew over at nearly the same spot as another did earlier in the day.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation said 60+mph crosswinds will make an “extreme blowover event” like again Monday evening and Tuesday.

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