Multiple people were killed in a large crash and fire that shut down Interstate 70 in both directions in Lakewood, Colorado.
Ty Countryman with the Lakewood Police Department said a tractor-trailer heading east down a hill crashed into slower traffic in the afternoon hours of Thursday, April 25, sparking a massive fire.
Countryman said the semi plowed into traffic that had been backed up near Denver West Colorado Mills Parkway due to an accident further up the road.
He said that after impact, a vehicle ignited and the fire spread.
A towering plume of black smoke was seen for miles as firefighters doused the burnt-out shells of several vehicles in the vicinity of the Denver West Parkway Bridge, The Associated Press reported.
West Metro Fire Rescue said on Twitter that a firefighter suffered minor injuries when he was hit by debris, possibly from an exploding tire.
Our crews working a multiple car crash on I-70 near Colorado Mills. Several vehicles are on fire, firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze. There are at least two injuries. Several agencies are assisting. Please avoid the area. pic.twitter.com/XUZygCKRS0
— WestMetroFire (@WestMetroFire) April 25, 2019
The Lakewood Police Department said in a tweet that the highway would remain closed “at least overnight.”
The Lakewood Police Department spokesman said the fiery pileup involved 15 vehicles and multiple people were killed.
He did not specify a death toll, citing persistent hotspots and ongoing fire suppression efforts by West Metro Fire Rescue.
“We have now confirmed multiple fatalities in this,” Countryman said at an on-location press conference around 9 p.m. local time. “We still are just getting to the wreckage.”
He said the investigation is in its early stages, as fire crews were still working to make the site safe for investigators due to the “the devastation and the fire” at the crash scene.
“They’re still working on the hotspots and—I wouldn’t say flare-ups—but the issues that come up.”
Six people were taken to the hospital. Their conditions are unknown.
“The driver of the semi is one of those six,” Countryman said.
“Investigators are certainly going to talk to him this evening to try to piece together what we know and what we don’t know in this crash right now.”
Countryman was earlier cited by 9News as vowing to investigate the cause of the tragedy.
“We have to try and figure out why this happened,” Countryman said. “The semi coming into the slower traffic. There’s got to be a reason. We’ll investigate and find out.”
The spokesman said investigators had begun interviewing witnesses to try piece together exactly what happened.
“We are still working on identifying those people that were killed and we’re still accounting for all people involved in the crash,” Countryman said.
Final update for the night on I-70 crash. Highway will remain closed at least overnight. We can confirm that there are multiple fatalities and 6 others taken to local hospitals.
Footage from the Crash
Video footage from a news helicopter showed flames whipping off the vehicles and what appeared to be lumber spilled across the interstate.
Local YouTuber Joshua McCutchen, who goes by the name “Burger Planet,” captured the moment the semi sped by him moments before crashing into stationary traffic ahead.
He also captured footage from the scene of the crash and interviewed an eyewitness.
Airborne traffic reporter John Morrissey posted an aerial photograph of the scene on Twitter.
“EB I70 is CLOSED at Ward Rd by this crash. School bus, tanker, and several cars involved. No word on injuries but several children are being evaluated in the 2 ambulances on scene.”
EB I70 is CLOSED at Ward Rd by this crash. School bus, tanker, and several cars involved. No word on injuries but several children are being evaluated in the 2 ambulances on scene. #cotraffic @KOANewsRadio pic.twitter.com/Tf5rwVvdsB
— John Morrissey (@KOAJetcopter) April 25, 2019
This is a developing story.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.