Wednesday, February 29, 2012

9-vehicle accident injures valley man

Ground blizzard blamed for incident near Timmerman


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A ground blizzard Saturday morning on state Highway 75 north of Timmerman Junction is being blamed for a nine-vehicle accident that left a 49-year-old Bellevue man in critical condition Tuesday at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. This photograph was taken about 30 minutes after the accident when visibility had slightly improved. Photo by Willy Cook

Bellevue resident Tony Randall, 49, remained in critical condition Tuesday at a Boise hospital after being injured Saturday morning in a nine-vehicle accident on state Highway 75 about a mile and a half north of Timmerman Junction.

Authorities who were at the scene of the crash south of Bellevue reported that visibility was near zero at the time of the accident as high winds and snow created a ground blizzard in the area.

Randall, the band teacher at Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School, was transported to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise with head and leg injuries after first being taken by Wood River Fire & Rescue ambulance to St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls.

Fire Chief Bart Lassman said Randall was transported to Boise by fixed-wing aircraft because high winds precluded the use of helicopters at both the crash scene and in Twin Falls.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office reported that Randall was injured when he stepped out from his vehicle at the accident scene and was hit by another car.

The Sheriff's Office reported that nine vehicles and 24 people were involved in the accident, but that Randall was the only one seriously injured.

After the accident, just before 10 a.m., and because of low visibility, the Idaho Transportation Department closed Highway 75 for two hours between Shoshone and Bellevue.

ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said sustained winds were measured Saturday morning at Timmerman Junction at 25 mph but that gusts as high as 50 mph were recorded at higher elevations.

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Traffic still on the highway was routed around the accident scene by way of Gannett and Baseline roads and U.S. Highway 20.

The first 911 emergency call regarding the accident came in to Blaine County Emergency Communications at 9:57 a.m.

The Sheriff's Office reported that the multi-car accident began when Randall, southbound in a 1999 GMC Suburban, collided with a southbound utility trailer being pulled by a 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 driven by Nathan Adams, 33, of Hailey. Randall then stepped from his vehicle and was struck by a southbound 1998 Volkswagen Jetta driven by a 15-year-old girl, whose name and address the Sheriff's Office declined to release.

The Sheriff's Office reported that confusion on the highway then led to a "chain reaction" in which six other vehicles collided with each other or were pushed into other cars.

Chief Lassman said visibility was practically zero.

"In the area of the crash, I would be safe to say it was 5 feet," Lassman said. "I was only going 5 mph and I nearly hit the back of a semi that was white."

Lassman said an ambulance crew struggled to stabilize Randall while he was being transported to Twin Falls. The ambulance crew was met in Shoshone by a critical-care unit from St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center who assisted in keeping him breathing.

The Sheriff's Office reported that Randall was stabilized in Twin Falls before being flown to Boise.

Sheriff's Capt. Jay Davis said Monday that the accident is still under investigation. In a preliminary report, the Sheriff's Office is attributing the incident to high winds and blowing snow.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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