NHP continues to investigate fatal Highway 50 crash
LVN Editor Emeritus
The Nevada Highway Patrol continues to investigate a fatal crash west of Fallon last week that killed one and seriously injured another motorist.
Trooper Hannah DeGoey said the NHP has been trying to notify the next of kin of the driver of a dry bulk cement truck/trailer who was killed in a three-vehicle crash on Tuesday (Oct. 29) at Sheckler Cutoff and U.S. Highway 50. Until then, she said the NHP will not release any names. (The LVN will post any updated information from the NHP on its website and Facebook page.) Banner Churchill Community Hospital (BCCH) paramedics responded to the scene before Care Flight was called. Care Flight landed on U.S. Highway 50 to transport the driver of one vehicle to a Renown Medical Center in Reno. DeGoey said the other driver walked away uninjured from the crash.
DeGoey said a Multi-disciplinary Investigation and Reconstruction Team (MIRT) arrived on scene to determine the exact cause of the crash, which occurred during the morning commute at about 7:37 a.m. She said the cement truck struck a gas main and a power pole. According to a preliminary report, a minivan was traveling west when it pulled out in front of the cement truck. The driver of the truck tried to avoid the minivan, but he hit the minivan and then a sedan.
Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department responded to the crash with at least three engines, two brush trucks and a water tender. More than 20 firefighters were on the scene. Originally, the NHP thought a propane truck had been involved in the crash, but after troopers were able to move closer to the vehicle, they learned it was an empty truck/trailer. Troopers had initially been concerned the truck could explode because of the gas leak.
The impact of the crash downed power lines that caused U.S. Highway 50 to close in both directions until crews from NV Energy replaced the posts. The highway, the main link from Fallon to Reno, reopened during the afternoon ahead of schedule, but crews restrung the power lines later in the day that caused intermittent delays. After the crash, NV Energy reported 2,550 customers were without power which included several Churchill County schools, Oasis Academy and BCCH.
Southwest Gas asked Fallon-area customers to conserve natural gas to ensure that service was not interrupted during repairs. The company said in a statement residents can help by using only vital natural gas appliances; lowering their thermostats to 65-68 degrees, health permitting; and dressing warmly while inside their homes.
The accident is the latest in a number of crashes and fatalities that have occurred during the past 15 years at the intersection of Sheckler Cut-off, Roberson Lane and the federal highway. According to Nevada Department of Transportation statistics for 2015-2017, for example, the intersection has had 13 crashes, one of which was fatal in 2015. Two other fatal crashes have occurred at the intersection, one each in 2007 and 2010.
During the past decade, according to NDOT records, the intersection has been the site of 38 crashes and 15 injuries. After a 17-year-old Round Mountain teenager was killed in April 2010, NDOT placed rumble strips on Sheckler and installed a larger stop sign with a flashing amber light. Churchill County commissioners have considered the Shackler Cutoff-U.S. Highway 50 intersection as their No. 1 priority for safety improvements. The discussion has been so serious at the intersection that residents approached the commissioners in an October 2018 meeting to express their concerns.
County resident Jarrod Mesloh asked commissioners 13 months ago if they could pressure NDOT officials to make the intersection safer for motorists turning onto the highway from either Sheckler Cutoff or Roberson Lane. He said vehicles also speed through the intersection, some as fast as 65 miles per hour, which makes it dangerous for motorists who are trying to access the highway.
Other speakers said the intersection is unsafe when people pulling large trailers try to make a westbound turn on the highway. Lee Bonner, an NDOT planner who listened to everyone’s concerns, said installing a traffic light at the intersection could take upward to two years and cost $1.5 million. Most of the crashes at the intersection, according to the NHP, have been the result of driver inattention.
NDOT officially notified commissioners in January the area’s most dangerous intersection in Churchill County should have traffic lights installed by the summer of 2020, said Meg Ragonese, NDOT’s public information officer. In view of a number of evaluations undertaken at the intersection, Ragonese told the LVN last week the U.S. 50 and Sheckler Cutoff meets specific federally-prescribed prerequisites needed to consider the installation and the need for manufacturing lights has been fast-tracked.
“All utilities in the area have been identified to reduce conflict with the new signal infrastructure,” she said. “Geotechnical analysis of area soils have also been completed to determine the needed sizes of signal and light pole foundations. NDOT is currently finalizing design of the new signal.
“Many traffic signal components such as poles and mast arms are custom-manufactured to fit the specific intersection where they will be installed. Many of these custom-fabricated components have a production and manufacturing lead time of six months or more.”
A number of readers also asked if temporary measures could be implemented to make the intersection safer until signal lights are installed.
“As NDOT expedites installation of a future permanent traffic signal at the intersection of the U.S. 50 and Sheckler Cutoff, we also continue evaluating whether potential interim traffic control measures such as a temporary four-way traffic stop could be effective,” Ragonese said. “Traffic safety is our top priority, and NDOT will remain dedicated to evaluating all measures to effectively enhance traffic mobility and safety at the intersection.”
This article has been updated since the original posting.