Temp Closure of Hwy 89 for Extrication of Coca-Cola Semi

February 7, 2009
A large tractor-trailer truck veered off the road and into deep snow along Highway 89 just south of Gros Ventre Junction at 11:40 p.m. Thursday night, February 5, in Grand Teton National Park. The semi truck, hauling Coca-Cola products, became high centered and stuck in more than two feet of snow after it left the roadway and traveled down an embankment and about 100 feet into nearby sagebrush. Attempts to extricate the 93-ton vehicle from the snowpack, using two heavy-duty tow trucks, resulted in minor disruptions to traffic and some temporary closures of Highway 89 during Friday afternoon, February 6, and Saturday morning, February 7.

The driver of the semi truck apparently lost control of his vehicle just before midnight on Thursday when the right front tire drifted into a ridge of snow along the southbound lane of Highway 89. The driver was unable to steer his vehicle back onto the pavement, and the truck plunged down the roadside embankment into a deeper snowpack, where it came to rest—upright. The driver was uninjured, but the semi was completely stuck with its tires buried in snow up to the wheel-well cowlings. A Wyoming Highway patrolman responded to the accident scene on Thursday night and interviewed the driver at that time.

Due to the significant weight of the semi truck, conventional towing equipment proved to be inadequate to pull it back onto the road late Thursday night. Therefore, a heavy-duty tow truck from Snake River Towing Service of Idaho Falls, Idaho was summoned Friday morning, and together with a heavy-duty tow truck from Flat Creek Towing of Jackson,Wyoming, a second attempt was made on Friday afternoon to pull the tractor-trailer out of the snowbank. This effort was also unsuccessful, and by late Friday afternoon, a crew from the local Coca-Cola distribution warehouse began to unload the truck’s cargo in order to lighten its weight for a third extrication attempt; the cargo reportedly consisted of several thousand cases of Coke products.

By reducing the tractor-trailer’s cargo load, the two heavy-duty tow trucks were able to carefully and incrementally pull the rig up the embankment and back onto Highway 89 at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. The semi truck was then driven to Jackson with no further delay.