Midwest Co-op feed truck hits bridge, misses house-moving crew, near Philip

Moments after ... the accident, the driver of the CHS Midwest Co-op truck had escaped and was being tended to. Traffic was stopped for about an hour while first responders and officials took care of the scene. Photo by Del Bartels

Shane VanderMay was driving north on Highway 73 from Philip on Tuesday, August 12. His CHS Midwest Cooperative truck, a 1991 Freightliner tri-axle, was carrying a partial load of 10 tons of unmedicated calf creep, to be delivered to a ranch up north.

At the same time, 3:40 p.m., a house was being moved southward across the bridge just west of Lake Waggoner. Dakota Hills House-moving, Inc. was transporting a prefabricated house from Rapid City to Wall. "A 150 mile trip to end up 50 miles, because of not going on Interstate, and having to go over adequate bridges," said one of the crewmen.

The moving crew had been passed near 11-mile corner by three firetrucks and a water tender of the Philip Volunteer Fire Department. The PVFD was responding to a grass fire approximately 20 miles north and west of Philip.

Two Kadoka crewmen, Jim Jones and Marvin Moor, of West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., were lifting power lines for proper clearance of the house-moving project. They had begun assisting the move from near Bridger and were to later turn over the duty to a West River Electric crew near Cottonwood.

Whatever circumstances led up to the accident are still under investigation. The house was just leaving the bridge when the feed truck began snapping off bridge railing posts and sending metal shrapnel onto the bridge and into the shoulder ditch. A corner of a section of the house was clipped. The truck smashed head-on into the concrete abutment of the bridge, then slowly tipped over into the ditch. It landed on the slope, with the cab already in or within a second or two of sliding into the shallow water, under the bridge. Then, the fuel tanks caught fire. Sometime after the initial pillar of black smoke erupted upward, an explosion was heard and felt from the top of the southern hill toward Philip.

According to house-moving crewmen, VanderMay had come up out of the cab through the open door window. He was moving fast, but not as fast as the fire. Before or during his launch to safety, he received burns to the left side of his body. He is currently at a burn center in Greeley, Colorado. VanderMay is a 2006 graduate of Kadoka High School and is the son of Dan and Annette VanderMay of Long Valley.

According to Dan VanderMay, Shane's father, Shane received burns to his left arm, left side of his back, left side of his face and to both hands. After a skin graft operaton on his left arm and left hand on August 19, Shane will have to remain at the burn center for seven to 10 days.

Jones and Moor had seen the initial smoke in their rear-view mirrors and immediately turned around. VanderMay was already standing in the middle of the road, talking with men of the moving crew. Jones and Moor offered VanderMay to sit in their vehicle; Moor staying with him while Jones called 911.

Within moments, the Philip Ambulance Crew and PVFD trucks arrived. The ambulance crew spoke with VanderMay, then put him onto a stretcher. Jones and Moore assisted the PVFD. More fire trucks, returning from the grass fire, joined the growing number of first responders. Philip Police Chief Kit Graham and South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Kelly Stern were joined by Haakon County Sheriff Larry Hanes, who was a member of the returning fire crew.

The blaze, completely destroying the cab of the feed truck, did not spread to any part of the bridge, the house nor the grass on the shoulder of the road. Traffic on Highway 73 was stopped for about an hour.

It is estimated that around 25 to 50 gallons were in the fuel tank of the feed truck when the accident occurred. Engineers from American Engineering of Pierre, Midwest Co-op's hazardous material contractors who analyze and handle emergency spills, have confirmed that all non-burned fuel and oil spills resulting from the accident have been cleaned up according to Environmental Protection Agency regulations. There is no contamination in the creek nor downstream in Lake Waggoner. This has been confirmed by Haakon County Emergency Management Director Lola Roseth, who consulted by phone with State Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials.

Milt Handcock, general manager of Midwest Co-op, said, "Midwest Cooperative is extremely grateful to all the first responders, the doctor, hospital staff and the Philip community. I can't say enough about everyone and their prompt reaction."

Dan VanderMay said, "Shane can't wait to get home. Thank you to everyone for all the thoughts and prayers." Shane's current mailing address is: North Colorado Medical Center, Burn Unit - room C342, 1801 16th Street, Greeley, Colorado 80631.