Friday, January 11, 2013

Morning accident delays commuter traffic

Vehicles diverted while crew repairs damaged power pole

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Power Co. workers remove a damaged power pole that was struck by a vehicle Thursday morning along state Highway 75 south of its intersection with Hospital Drive. The accident caused major delays to commuter traffic between Hailey and Ketchum. Photo by Roland Lane

Commuter traffic between Hailey and Ketchum was delayed for about two and half hours Thursday morning while Idaho Power Co. replaced a power pole that was damaged when struck by a vehicle that slid off snow-covered state Highway 75.

The accident, which occurred at about 8:10 a.m., left the power pole sheared and dangling, suspended only by power lines, above the highway about 150 yards south of its intersection with Hospital Drive.

“For safety reasons, we had to divert traffic down Broadway Run,” said Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey. “We determined it wouldn’t be safe if the lines snapped and the pole fell, and we didn’t want to get someone caught in that. We felt like it wasn’t worth the risk and we’d rather have delays.”

The Sheriff’s Office began diverting traffic onto Broadway Run at about 8:20 a.m. Ramsey said Idaho Power replaced the damaged pole and traffic was restored to the highway just before 10:50 a.m.

The situation was further compounded when a Mountain Rides Transportation Authority bus slid off a corner on Broadway Run at about 8:35 a.m. and got stuck in deep snow. Until the bus was pulled free at about 9:20 a.m., traffic on Broadway Run was reduced to one lane only.

Ramsey said the power pole was damaged when it was struck by a southbound 2007 Toyota Highlander SUV driven by Brittany Shipley, 23, of Ketchum. Ramsey said neither Shipley nor her 6-year-old son, Tyler Shipley, was injured.

“They just sat in the ambulance and waited until we could get things cleared away so they could get out of there,” he said.

Ramsey said the accident remains under investigation, but noted that the roadway was extremely slick when the accident occurred.

The sheriff also noted that communications between responders was hampered by the large number of calls that delayed motorists made to the Sheriff’s Office seeking to find out what was going on.

“It was somewhat distracting for the dispatchers to be handling the calls for information,” he said. “People need to help us a bit and not keep calling us to get updates when we’re trying to handle an emergency.”

Ramsey notified the Idaho Mountain Express about the situation at about 9 a.m., and information regarding the delays was subsequently posted on the Express website.

Terry Smith:

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