A Lewiston trucker escaped unhurt Thursday from an accident that left 10 cattle dead and 74 wandering scared in the hillsides near Rockford Bay.
The cab of Joe Ammons’ blue Freightliner was squashed into a triangle and his tandem cattle trailers were mangled after the onevehicle crash on U.S. Highway 95, 12 miles south of Coeur d’Alene.
But at midday, Ammons, 46, stood chatting with wrecker drivers during the cleanup, crediting his “three-point” seat belt for saving his life.
“I like myself,” he said, as a bewildered calf poked through the brush by the wreck. “I think anybody who gets in a vehicle should wear a seat belt.”
The cattle weren’t so lucky. The crash killed seven, and Dr. Jon Bloxham, a veterinarian at Prairie Animal Hospital, euthanized three. The three were too injured to survive, said Dusty Rhoads, Kootenai County’s animal control officer.
Rhoads, Ammons and wrecker drivers ripped away panels of the overturned trailers to free live cattle. They used a Kootenai Electric Cooperative boom truck to lift the dead cattle to the side of the road.
Ammons said the crash occurred after the load of cattle shifted to the right and one wheel locked.
But Idaho State Police Cpl. Pete Bowes said Ammon’s wheels already were in the soft dirt along the shoulder. The cows shifted to balance themselves around the curve, and the trailer tipped.
After the crash, the truck’s engine compartment caught on fire, but Ammons had a fire extinguisher. The fire was out by the time rescue workers arrived.
Bowes cited Ammons for inattentive driving.
“You have to keep it on the road,” Bowes said, as he surveyed the wreckage.
A subsequent inspection showed 10 of the 15 brakes on Ammons’ rig were below state standards, Bowes said. He cited Ammons for the violations, but said the brakes didn’t contribute to the crash.
Ranchers in the area volunteered to help round up the straying cattle. The Lewiston cows, which were on their way to pasture north of Coeur d’Alene, wear M-shaped brands on their hindquarters and orange tags on their ears.
Traffic on that stretch of highway was confined to one lane all afternoon and into the evening as wreckers cleaned up the mess. Ammons said the dead animals would go to a rendering plant.
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