Truck takes a powder
Driver escapes injury when he crashes overloaded semi on descent from Teton Pass toward Wilson.
By Emma Breysse and Brielle Schaeffer, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 8, 2012
A semitrailer driver escaped serious injury after his overloaded big rig crashed through a guardrail coming down Teton Pass on Monday and spilled talcum powder all over the place.
Fifty-year-old driver Sharop Khudayberganov escaped with a few scrapes and bruises and a thick, white coating. The crash destroyed the truck and several hundred feet of guardrail.
The truck’s brakes failed between the two runaway-truck ramps while traveling east toward Wilson on Monday night, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Kelly said.
Troopers believe Khudayberganov, of Davenport, Iowa, tried to use the guardrail to slow himself when he couldn’t get to a runaway ramp, Kelly said. Khudayberganov told Trooper Lucian Carter, who was the lead officer at the scene, his brakes were working when he passed the first escape ramp, Carter said.
Both escape ramps require drivers in distress on Highway 22 to cross the lane of oncoming, uphill traffic.
Khudayberganov was carrying 75,000 pounds between the talcum powder and the truck itself, Kelly said. The weight limit on Teton Pass is 60,000 pounds.
“It’s another driver who ignored the weight restrictions on Teton Pass,” Kelly said. “This is what happens.”
Carter gave Khudayberganov two tickets: one for being over the legal weight limit and one for failing to stay in his lane. The fines total $600.
Runaway trucks are a perennial problem on the pass and in Wilson, where several have crashed.
Flaggers controlled traffic on Teton Pass on Tuesday as crews worked to clear the debris from the wreck site, Kelly said. Heaps of white talcum powder made it look as though a freak snowfall occurred.
While a wrecker cleared the remains of the semi, Kelly said most of the powder will have to remain on the pass until it washes away on its own.
“Fortunately, it’s not hazardous,” he said.
The truck, owned by Chicago-based Globus Logistics, was coming from Dillon, Mont., and heading to Evansville, Ind., company manager Anthony Jasas said.
“I have no idea how the driver ended up by Yellowstone,” he said. “The driver said the GPS told him that way.”
Once Khudayberganov saw the sign for the truckload restriction, it was too late for him to turn around, Jasas said.
“The road was so tight he couldn’t turn one way or another,” he said. “If he would have taken the normal interstate, I’m assuming he would have not run into any troubles.”
As for the talcum powder, the trucking company gets loads through a broker and does not know the details of the freight, Jasas said.
Khudayberganov has worked for Globus Logistics for about six months, he said.
In June, he tipped over a semitrailer while driving through Kingsport, Tenn.
That truck was not loaded properly, and the trailer shifted, causing it to topple off the road, Jasas said. The Kingsport police did not cite him for the accident, according to an article in The Kingsport Times-News. For that wreck, Khudayberganov had to take mandatory time off work and pay some fees, Jasas said.
Although accidents happen, Jasas said he feels like the one on Teton Pass could have been avoided.
“I don’t think he’s going to be able to work anymore as a truck driver,” he said. “Definitely he’s not going to work for me.”
Jasas has been communicating with Khudayberganov through Teton County law enforcement. Emergency responders took the driver to St. John’s Medical Center, but he never was admitted, hospital spokeswoman Karen Connelly said.
Khudayberganov lost everything in the totaled truck. He is taking a bus to Salt Lake City, where the company will pick him up, Jasas said.
“I’m glad nobody was killed,” he said. “I’m glad nobody had serious injuries.”
Teton Pass was the wrong choice of road for that semi-trailer, he said. The truck had a normal load for its size, but on the pass it was overweight, Jasas said.
“Some guys just never learn,” he said. “They’re not cautious enough.”
If Khudayberganov had driven through Alpine and headed north to Jackson, he would have remained within legal weight limit. It’s 80,000 pounds for that stretch of highway, Kelly said.
The limits are stricter for Teton Pass because of its sharp curves and steep grade, he said.