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Truck wrecks at bottom of dam hill


A semi tractor-double trailer rig, laden with cement, lies turned over just below the Visitor Center at Grand Coulee Dam. A second trailer came to a stop upright. - Roger S. Lucas photo

A Wellpinit man escaped serious injury when his semi truck with double trailers, laden with dry cement, crashed at the bottom of the Coulee Dam hill about 9 a.m. last Wednesday morning, Dec. 4.

Darwin L. Newport, 51, said his truck brakes, fully engaged, failed, and he turned into the left powerhouse access road, just below the Visitor Center at Grand Coulee Dam, to avoid hitting other vehicles ahead of him on highway 155.

Newport was taken by ambulance to Coulee Medical Center and was released with minor scrapes, cuts and bruises.

Reached Monday, Darwin said he was still sore, but doing OK.

"I kept gaining speed when my brakes failed, and the last I looked at my speedometer my tractor was going about 35 mph," Newport stated.

He said that his rig, a 2006 Freightliner, was "gaining on several small cars ahead" and that's when he made the decision to turn off on the access road.

Newport is a retired intermediate life support technician for the Spokane Tribes at Wellpinit.

He stated that his training helped him in making the decision to turn off of SR 155.

"I knew the route and have travelled over that road a number of times," Newport stated.

He said that he looked to see if there were any pedestrians at the corner of the access area and, seeing none, turned sharply.

Newport said he hasn't been cited yet, but traditionally, when a commercial vehicle leaves the road, a citation will follow.

"I just thank the good Lord that no one was hurt or killed," Newport stated.

When the truck left the road ,it overturned along with one of the trailers. A second trailer was about 100 feet away still upright.

A Nespelem woman, Joy McClure, told Coulee Dam police that she was southbound on SR-155 at about Grant Avenue when she saw the truck traveling north ahead of her. The truck, she stated, appeared to be having trouble stopping and turned onto the access road so it wouldn't hit vehicles ahead.

A Coulee Dam woman, "Glo" Carroll, who lives about a block away, said she heard a big bang and then walked down the hill from her home to see what had happened.

The tractor was lying on its side along with one trailer and a second was some 100 feet away.

The area quickly filled up with fire trucks and patrol vehicles. An ambulance came in to take Newport to the hospital.

"I would like to thank all the responders, fire and police and the staff at the hospital. Everyone did a great job," Newport added.

One observer, who has experience with driving tractors with trailers, said that the cement (fine powder) and the vehicle and trailers probably weighed over 100,000 pounds.

The police report stated the tractor and one trailer was a total loss.

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