Fatal Woods Landing crash raises concerns about traffic

A semitrailer carrying large equipment crashed into Woods Creek Monday evening, killing the driver and spilling diesel fuel into the creek. The second semitrailer crash in the area in just over a month, local residents are concerned with safety as the semitrailer traffic increases on the highway. (Photo by Jordan Achs, Laramie Boomerang)

LARAMIE — A Wyoming man died when his semitrailer traveling eastbound on Wyoming Highway 230 Monday evening crashed through a guardrail about two miles west of Woods Landing, sliding down into a ravine before coming to a rest upside down in the creek below.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to the scene of the fatal crash where the driver of the semitrailer “failed to negotiate a slight curve to the left,” according to a Tuesday afternoon news release. The driver, 39-year-old Gillette resident Juan Aguayo-Gonzalez, succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash. He was reportedly wearing his seatbelt.

Woods Landing Resort owner Bill Spencer told the Boomerang he was one of the first to the scene, and it was a particularly bad crash. Both he and his wife, Sue Spencer, said they’ve noticed an increase in large semitrailer traffic on the state highway within the last year, and creating a “dangerous situation.”

“With a 7% grade on a road, and that much traffic, it’s really a miracle that somebody wasn’t in front of this guy,” Sue Spencer said. “There wasn’t much traffic at 8:30 at night, but if it would’ve been when all these cars are backed up because we’re doing road construction, it would’ve wiped out a whole line of people.”

Monday’s crash may sound familiar; a semitrailer crashed around the same area just over a month ago, spilling water from an oil and gas production site into nearby Woods Creek.

The semitrailer that crashed Monday was hauling large machinery and equipment. However, around 100-150 gallons of diesel fuel from its engine spilled into Woods Creek, said Keith Guille, public information supervisor with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Guille told the Boomerang while the DEQ was notified of the spill, it’s “very difficult to do anything” after the fact because it’s a moving body of water and much of the spill is downstream before anyone can get to it.

“The previous spill, we did go out onto the area to do some sampling,” Guille said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect our staff to go out there if need be to do additional sampling.”

He added the moving water also makes it harder to determine what environmental impact — if any — the fuel spill would have on the surrounding environment.

“It’s not that it’s not a concern, it certainly is,” he said. “These are not instances we like to see … but unfortunately, we see it once again in that area. Hopefully that’s something that’s not going to be reoccurring.”

Dozens of semitrailers whizzed by even as crews from the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Highway Patrol tried to coordinate traffic around the crash late Tuesday morning to allow for a tow truck to try to get the wreckage out of the ravine.

The speed limit on the highway is 70 mph, but signs through the area where the crash occurred caution drivers to slow down to 40 mph when navigating the curvy, steep highway. Sue Spencer said she felt many drivers do not heed the speed warning.

The WHP said the accident is still under investigation.

This is the 67th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways this year, compared to 40 at this time in 2018.