Van Was No Match for Megaload


Moscow man says he’s disappointed hauler and ISP have ‘minimized’ accident

James Urquidez looks over the damage to his van after being involved in an accident with a large load near Moscow (The Lewiston Tribune/Steve Hanks photo).

MOSCOW – James Urquidez obeyed his first instinct when he realized a megaload was coming right for his head: duck.

“When I realized he wasn’t going to make it, it was too late to do anything else,” Urquidez said Monday.

Last Tuesday night, Urquidez was waiting with several other vehicles on U.S. Highway 95 just south of Moscow for three giant Imperial Oil shipments of refining equipment to pass. One of the megaloads, which was supposed to wait in a staging area, struck Urquidez’s 1996 Chevrolet Astrovan on the upper driver’s side.

“It exploded the side window from the pressure,” Urquidez said. “It crushed the windshield. I don’t know if it would have hit me or not, but I was able to duck out of the way.”

Urquidez said he is upset that the oil company, the hauling company and the Idaho State Police have “minimized” his ordeal.

“They said it was ‘non-injury,’ but what they failed to mention is that the guy almost killed me,” he said. “And my van is destroyed. It just kind of ticked me off.”

And while he wasn’t taken to the hospital – therefore technically classifying the accident as non-injury – Urquidez said he suffered a contusion to his leg and is experiencing back pain.

“I’m not looking to make any money,” the Moscow cabinetmaker said. “I just want it to be made right. And I think part of making it right is not minimizing it.”

An insurance adjuster was supposed to visit his home Monday, Urquidez said, but he still felt like the companies involved were dragging their feet. He said he used the van to travel to work, and to haul cabinets to job sites for installation.

The accident resulted in the suspension of Imperial’s license from the Idaho Transportation Department to ship its modules to the Kearl oil sands extraction project in Canada. ITD spokesman Adam Rush said the agency is awaiting an internal report from the hauling company, Mammoet, before the license will be considered for reinstatement.

ISP Capt. Lonnie Richardson said the accident was purely the result of error on the part of the megaload driver, who failed to stop at the staging area as planned.

“It was just a lapse of driver judgment,” Richardson said.

ISP cited Vladimir Purgar of Calgary, Alberta, for inattentive driving. Purgar had driven the route several times before, and was at the pre-trip safety briefing. And there were no changes to previous procedures, Richardson said.

Purgar told investigators that the pilot car and the ISP trooper assigned to his load left the staging area, and he mistakenly followed.

Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser said the damage to Urquidez’s vehicle is a matter for Mammoet’s insurance company to settle, but Imperial is cooperating with the investigations into the incident and takes it “very seriously.”

“There is a specific transportation plan,” Rolheiser said. “There are procedures and protocols, and we’re working with Mammoet to measure how those processes and protocols were followed.”

Mammoet did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The megaloads have stirred controversy around the communities through which they pass, sparking frequent protests in Moscow especially. But Urquidez said he is not among the naysayers, adding he just wants the people hauling the modules to be more careful.

“I’m not against the megaloads,” he said. “I’m against getting hit by a megaload.”

(By Joel Mills, The Lewiston Tribune)

(Link provided by Ellen Roskovich)

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