4 dead after crashing into washed out Wyo. highway

12:22 PM, Jul 19, 2011   |    comments
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Four members of one family died after their vehicle drove into a washed-out section of a mountain highway in Wyoming and was swept downstream by a raging creek as they fled torrential rains at campground.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said the accident occurred early Tuesday after heavy rain caused flash flooding along a stream that passes under Wyoming 130 about 20 miles from Saratoga in the southern part of the state.

The patrol says at least two vehicles, including one driven by the local emergency management coordinator, went into the 25-foot-wide breach and were swept away. Coordinator John Zeiger was rescued by other motorists and taken to a hospital where he was being treated for bumps and bruises.

A Carbon County Sheriff's Office plane is flying over the area to see whether any more vehicles were washed into the creek.

The names of the four family members killed have not been released.

Patrol spokesman Stephen Townsend said a sixth member of the family survived and was taken to Carbon County Memorial Hospital in Rawlins. Townsend said he had no immediate word on the person's condition.

Heavy rain began around 7 p.m. Monday and continued until near midnight, prompting authorities to begin clearing out three area campgrounds after midnight, Townsend said.

The family, which was traveling in a van, was among those fleeing the campground, he said.

Townsend said it is not known exactly when the van went into the creek.

Zeiger, who was traveling alone and responding to the situation, and his vehicle plunged into the creek around 1:30 a.m., Townsend said.

Many rivers and creeks in Wyoming are already swollen by heavy mountain runoff from a record snowpack.

Before Monday, flooding this spring and summer has been blamed for at least two deaths and an estimated $4.2 million in damage to public infrastructure and other costs.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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