OELRICHS | Approximately 25 cattle perished in a semi-trailer truck accident late Thursday night, south of Oelrichs near mile-maker 8 on Highway 385.
According to Fall River County Sheriff Rich Mraz, the cattle truck, driven and owned by Wilford Kurtz, 45, of Miles City, Mont., was southbound when it rolled onto its right side as it neared the railroad crossing through a construction zone. The 911 call was made by a passing northbound motorist and called into Fall River County dispatch at 9:54 p.m.
The cattle truck came to rest on the west shoulder of the highway and also on railroad tracks, blocking both one lane of traffic and the DM&E rail line. Sheriff Mraz said when he arrived on the scene, personnel spotted an oncoming train in the distance but were able to notify the railroad in time to stop the train and avoid a collision.
There were a total of 94 head of cattle in the trailer. The driver had to be extricated by members of the Oelrichs Fire Department and was then transferred to Chadron Community Hospital.
Sheriff Mraz said Kurtz was reported to be pretty “banged up” but he is not believed to have sustained life-threatening injuries.
About 25 cattle were killed inside the mangled trailer. Those cattle that survived and were able to escape the trailer were rounded up by members of the Oelrichs Fire Department and Fall River County Sheriff’s Office.
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Mraz said personnel rode four-wheelers and pushed the cattle, some of them injured, into nearby pastures to keep them off the roadway.
While it was raining steadily at the time of the accident, initial reports made mention of a possible blown tire as the cause of the accident. But South Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. David Berkley said their investigation concluded that as the driver was maneuvering the semi-truck and trailer though the curves of the construction zone, his right side tires are believed to have left the pavement and dropped onto the lower passenger-side shoulder.
He said the sudden shift in weight then caused the truck to fall onto its side.
As of Friday morning, crews were still extricating the dead cattle inside the trailer in order to lighten the load of the truck so it could be moved off of the tracks and off of the highway.
Lt. Berkley said no charges are pending.