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All 10 in wrecked SUV on Togwotee related; two killed

Mar 10, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Wintry mountain crash tests response capabilities

The Wyoming Highway Patrol has released more information about the 10 other people involved in a double-fatal collision Thursday on Togwotee Pass.

Four-year-old Aylin Ruiz of Mountain Home, Idaho, died in the crash, as did her grandmother, Delores Ruiz, 56, of Mountain Home. Officials said neither was wearing a seatbelt; they both were pronounced dead at the scene of blunt-force trauma from the crash. No autopsies are planned.

The two victims were passengers in an eastbound 2006 GMC Yukon carrying 10 people. The vehicle reportedly lost control at about 12:50 p.m. Thursday on the snow packed, icy highway and collided with a westbound tractor-trailer combination about 25 miles west of Dubois.

All relatives

All of the occupants of the Yukon were related, officials said, including three additional children.

Child survivors from the Yukon are Miguel Martinez, 6, of Boise, Idaho, who was transported via helicopter to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper; he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Evirty Ruiz, 6, of Mountain Home, also was not wearing a seatbelt and was transported by ground ambulance to Riverton Memorial Hospital. Christian Martinez, 8, of Boise, was transported by ground ambulance to Lander Regional Hospital; he also was not wearing his seatbelt.

The adults in the GMC included Irwin Ruiz, 20, of Mountain Home, who also was not wearing a seatbelt. He was transported by ground ambulance to Lander Regional Hospital, as was Cara Compos, 21, of Mountain Home, who also wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Gabriele Martinez, 25, of Boise, was not wearing a seatbelt either and was transported via helicopter to Billings.

Driver Cutberto Ruiz-Villa, 55, of Mountain Home, was wearing his seatbelt and was transported via ground ambulance to Lander Regional Hospital. Samantha Ruiz, 24, of Mountain Home, also was wearing a seatbelt in the front seat of the GMC. She was transported to Riverton Memorial Hospital and was treated and released.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Adams said two people were still in grave danger as of Friday afternoon.

The two occupants of the tractor-trailer combination were uninjured. They were driver Steven Wayne Wilson, 43, of Pierce, Colo., and Ferdinand O. Castillo, 47, Aurora, Colo. Both were wearing their seatbelts.

McAuslan said the highway was snow-packed, and it was snowing at the time of the crash, with walls of snow rising on either side of the road. The SUV reportedly lost control and went into a sideways skid, hitting the front of the truck with the side of the SUV.

Adams said Ruiz-Villa was traveling too fast for conditions when he lost control and swerved into the westbound lane. The WHP cited Ruiz-Villa for lane use; alcohol and drug use are not suspected.

Both vehicles involved sustained heavy damage according to officials at the scene. The 2009 freight liner tractor trailer combination belongs to the McLane Company and was carrying groceries.

McAuslan commended area agencies for working together during the incident.

"With the number of people they were dealing with, this was basically a disaster-type situation," McAuslan said. "(It) was handled very well; everybody responded appropriately and did a good job."

He mentioned the WHP, Fremont County Sheriff's Office, Dubois Search and Rescue and Fremont County Emergency Medical Services in particular. The Wyoming Department of Trans-portation closed U.S. Highway 26 over Togwotee Pass while the scene was cleared, he continued, and area hospitals made sure they had space in their emergency rooms to accept the patients. The Fremont County Emergency Dispatch Center coordinated the emergency response.

"The dispatch center received multiple calls about the incident," Undersheriff Ryan Lee said Friday. "Several agencies were dispatched to the event, including ground ambulances from Fremont and Teton counties, as well as air ambulances from Riverton, Casper and Idaho."

Two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters were staged at the Dubois Municipal Airport to shuttle patients to awaiting hospitals, Lee said, and the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department also responded to assist.

Dubois fire chief Mike Franchini also complimented emergency responders for working together on the case.

"This was what we consider a multi-casualty incident. ... As wrecks go it was pretty severe," he said. "That event was activated, and the incident commander was an EMS person. ... You couldn't ask for a better incident to have everything work smoothly."

The highway was closed until about 6 p.m.

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