Two Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) employees were able to quickly assist in traffic control and remove the driver of a fuel tanker that caught fire last week shutting down Interstate 25.
The incident happened May 31 near Orchard, and South Metro Denver area CDOT employees Matt Bell and Richard Smith were the first on the scene. Bell and Smith were involved in nearby maintenance inspection at the time of the fire.
“We saw smoke in the distance and thought it may have been a blown out tire,” Smith says. “It wasn’t until we were able to get closer that we realized the seriousness of the situation and ran to help. Bell was the one to run to the driver, and I helped set up traffic control to stop vehicles from passing the fire.”
“That’s what all our crews are trained to do,” Bell says of his reasoning for intervening. He adds everyone on the road was a hero and does not want the spotlight to be on just the two men. “I would just hope that someone would do the same for me,” Bell says.
CDOT says nearly 100 crew members from both its agency and contractor partners Brannan Sand and Gravel, Alpha Milling Company and Kraemer, worked to repair the roadway to make I-25 safe, and to have it open by rush hour.
“What Matt and Richard did was truly heroic,” says Shailen Bhatt, CDOT executive director. “They went above and beyond our safety values. Truly, all of our crew members who were out on the roadway last night into the early morning demonstrated determination and a high regard for the people of Colorado’s lives.”