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Trucker killed after plunging more than 100 feet off Wolf Creek Pass


A Florida-based truck driver lost his life over the weekend when he lost control and drove off of a cliff on U.S. Highway 160, also known as Wolf Creek Pass, in Colorado.

The incident happened at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, as 30 year old truck driver Brandon Martinez was making his way from South Fork to Pagosa Springs. According to the Colorado  Highway Patrol, Martinez wasn’t able to negotiate the turn at mile marker 160, drove through the scenic overlook parking lot, and crashed off of a cliff, falling approximately 125 feet before coming to a stop.

Martinez was transported to the hospital, where he later passed away.

Though the crash remains under investigation, Colorado State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll says that speed was a factor: “He was driving way too fast.” Driscoll says that Martinez lost his brakes and that he passed but did not use two runaway truck ramps before he drove off the cliff.

There have been numerous truck crashes on Wolf Creek Pass in recent years — so many that last summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) ran a “Beware The Wolf” campaign, warning truckers that “If you over brake it, you won’t make it” on Highway 160.

From 2011 to 2015, 49 trucks crashed on Wolf Creek Pass. Two truck drivers lost their lives in those crashes. CDOT says that the majority of these crashes happen at “the switchback curve near the Wolf Creek Scenic Outlook area.”

In the video below, you can see dash cam footage of a runaway truck on Wolf Creek Pass that was shared by CDOT last spring.

Here are some tips from CDOT for making it over Wolf Creek Pass safely.

Prepare for the trip

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  • Check brakes before descending the Pass.
  • Maintain a low speed in low gear, and use flashers to warn other vehicles of your speed.
  • Do not “ride” the truck’s brakes; this will cause overheating and possible loss of the brake system.
  • You might consider Jake Brakes (or compression brakes) a useful braking mechanism to help control the speed of a heavy truck. However, the best practice is to remain in low gears to avoid overheating.
  • Keep brakes cool by pulling into brake stations, or onto the shoulder of the road, if you can locate a safe spot.

Using Runaway Truck Ramps

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  1. Maneuver the trucks into the far right lane before approaching upgrade ramps.
  2. As the truck approaches the runaway ramp, steer straightand try to keep the wheels aligned.
  3. Ramps are narrow; attempt to stay in the center of the ramp to avoid any risk of rolling over.
  4. Once the truck is stopped, call 911 to report the incident, even if there are not injures.

Arm Yourself With Knowledge

  • Know the road.
    Take the time to familiarize yourself with this mountain pass.
  • Obey the speed limit.
    Westbound commercial vehicle drivers must maintain a speed of no faster than 25 mph downhill from the summit.
  • Understand the steepness of the Pass.
    The west side of the Pass is at a 7 percent downhill grade.
  • Anticipate curves.
    The Pass features a dangerous hairpin curve six-and-a-half miles from the summit.
  • Know how far you’ll travel.
    Drivers will travel more than eight miles from the summit (near the Wolf Creek Ski Area) to the west base of the Pass (near Treasure Falls).
  • Identify public-access roads.
    Points of access along the Pass include a ski area, forest roads and a public scenic lookout.
  • Know where to find brake and chain-up stations.
    Inspect your brakes at the summit before descending the eight-mile trip. A wide shoulder area is available to eastbound and westbound motorists. This area can also be used as chain-up station.
  • Know where to find the runaway truck ramps.
    Two runaway escape ramps are available on the west side of the Pass for out-of-control trucks:

    1. At mile point (MP) 162.5, about 4.5 miles from the summit.
    2. MP 161, about six miles from the summit. Note: This is your last chance to use a runaway ramp.

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