DENVER – A major pileup involving about 100 vehicles left multiple people injured and dozens of drivers stranded early Friday morning as Denver woke up to its first measurable snow of the season.
The multi-vehicle pileup in the eastbound lanes at West 6th Ave. and N. Kalamath Street was first reported shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday to Denver police.
About an hour later, police tweeted both directions of West 6th Ave. had been shut down at N. Kalamath all the way to N. Federal Blvd. “due to several crashes.” Alternate routes were advised.
“I saw the big pile of cars coming right there and then when I tried to stop, you just sled – you couldn’t stop. There was no stopping,” said Anthony Mendoza, a driver who was involved in the crash. “You just hit right in front of you, cars [were] hitting us from behind. It was a big mess. It was horrible.”
Mendoza described the road as “slick” by the time he saw the crash in front of him.
“It was more scary (sic) knowing you can’t stop,” he said. “It was just, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to hit something’ and hoping that I don’t hit nobody, so I turned and tried to hit the guard rail so I didn’t try hitting nobody else, but just got pushed more into it.”
Wyatt Cessna also spoke to Denver7 Friday morning about the crash, saying the road was “all one big sheet of black ice” that you couldn’t see.
“I was on my way to work and I came up over the hill on 6th and there was a bunch of cars piled up,” Cessna said. “I tried my best to stop, but it wasn't working out, [I] slid into a dump truck, got hit like four more times, truck’s gone. My driver’s side door is basically in my seat now. Truck’s gone, it’s crazy. I'm alright though, so I guess everything's okay.”
Denver police said just before 8 a.m. there were reports of “multiple injuries” but it was not clear how many people were injured – and to what degree – as the scene was still a “very active incident.”
Doug Schepman, a spokesperson with the police department, told Denver7 it sounded like most of the injuries were minor though some may have been serious.
Vehicles that were left abandoned were being towed at Lot C at Empower Field at Mile High, according to police.
Both DOTI, the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, and CDOT, the Colorado Department of Transportation, told Denver7 Friday putting down deicer during a storm like this doesn't work well because the rain ahead of the snow washes the deicer away.
“In anticipation of the snow last night, the department of transportation and infrastructure had crews deployed throughout the city to monitor major roadways. Sixth Avenue is one of the routes we were monitoring closely. At 4:30 a.m. when our crews passed through the area, the road conditions did not call for deicer and would have been ineffective,” said Vanessa Lacayo, spokesman for DOTI. “During a storm event like we had yesterday, DOTI will pass through major roads and bridges every two hours. In Colorado, road conditions can change quickly, which is what happened along 6th Ave. creating slick conditions before we had a chance to return to the area.”
CDOT did deploy snow plows and put down salt on some of the major thoroughfares, bridges and overpasses that it maintains.
Westbound 6th Ave. reopened from Kalamath to I-25 by about 10:30 a.m., according to Denver7 traffic expert Jayson Luber. The eastbound lanes reopened shortly after 11 a.m.
"This is classic Colorado," Luber said. "And then you have these drivers going too fast for conditions, going up this hill. They can’t see what’s ahead of them and then they slam on their brakes because they see, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s a crash here,' and then they start spinning out of control and they don’t know what’s happening up ahead because there’s that bridge. It’s a blind spot.”
Denver Fire Department officials said a total of 83 people were medically evaluated at the scene following the pileup. Of those, 13 were taken to the hospital. Only one of the 13 had serious injuries, the official said.
If you were involved in this crash and your vehicle was towed from the scene and you still have not located it, Denver police ask that you call (720) 913-2000 and press 2. Officers ask that you have your license plate number ready.
Denver7 reporters Jessica Crawford and Russell Haythorn contributed to this report.