DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Scraps of mangled vehicles littered southbound Interstate 25 near Happy Canyon Road on Monday as officials investigated a scene that left one dead and nine injured.
The accident happened just before 1 a.m. halting traffic for hours.
Jennifer Kaylor was stuck in traffic. She works at a hospital and says these accidents are more common than people think.
“We get a lot of that at the hospital — a lot of deer and other kinds of wildlife accidents,” Kaylor said.
According to Colorado State Patrol officials, a Minnesota driver was heading southbound on I-25 with an 18-year-old passenger when he hit an elk. The driver pulled over on the side of the road, and a good Samaritan stopped to help.
Officials say all three people were standing outside of their vehicles when a driver of a Toyota 4Runner hit the elk in the middle of the road and lost control, striking the 18-year-old passenger and a vehicle. It threw all three pedestrians over the concrete barrier and onto the northbound lanes of I-25. The driver of a Dodge Nitro then collided with the Toyota 4Runner and hit a Kia Forte.
The 18-year-old passenger died at the scene. The 70-year-old driver of the Toyota 4Runner sustained serious injuries, and his 69-year-old female passenger sustained life-threatening injuries. A GoFundMe page for the 18-year-old victim, identified by the coroner as Kendra Durnan of Buffalo, Minn., was started on Monday.
There were four people from New Mexico in the Dodge Nitro, including two 10-year-olds, and one was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the Dodge Nitro also sustained serious injuries. The extent of the injuries to their passenger were listed as unknown by officials. The 31-year-old driver from Colorado Springs in the Kia Forte sustained minor injuries. The conditions of the Minnesota driver and the good Samaritan were not released.
Officials say drugs, alcohol and speed are not considered a factor.
Kaylor said it’s common to come across wildlife on I-25; she’s had several close encounters herself while driving to and from work.
“I actually about hit one [a deer] getting on the on-ramp the other night. She just come across the car, and I had to slam on my brakes,” Kaylor said.
Throughout the state the Colorado Department of Transportation has implemented wildlife crossings to help protect drivers and wildlife. Four wildlife crossings are under construction along with the South Gap project, which covers 18 miles between Monument and Castle Rock.
The crossings and new fencing are expected to be done by mid-summer and are located just a few miles north of where the accident happened.
“It’s funneling them [wildlife] to these underpasses with the hopes that they used them there and stay off the routes,” said Jason Clay, a spokesperson with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Clay says a survey is currently underway in the area where the accident happened to determine if another wildlife crossing or fencing is needed.
CDOT and CPW are working together on several projects to improve the safety of wildlife and drivers on the interstate.
“It’s a big emphasis on Colorado right now, and we are trying to improve the safety for people and animals alike,” Clay said.
Drivers told Denver7 they are on board with more wildlife crossings to keep everyone safe. Lupita Medina adds that it’s just as important to stay off your phone and be aware of your surroundings to react in a timely manner.