Mark Nolte, Dion Hopkins Jr. Killed in Truck Accident on I-80 near Burns, WY
Burns, WY — September 3, 2022, Mark Nolte and Dion Hopkins Jr. died in a fiery crash between tractor-trailers along Interstate 80 near Burns.
Authorities say the incident happened around 4:50 a.m. along I-80 near mile marker 385. Preliminary investigation suggests a Volvo 18-wheeler was parked on the westbound shoulder of the freeway, allegedly with its cab at least partially in the travel lane, when a Freightliner big rig passed through and struck it. After the impact both trucks caught fire.
Truck driver Nolte, 58, and passenger Hopkins, 29, were fatally injured in the wreck. Reports are unclear which truck either of the victims was in. The other truck driver's condition is unknown.
The investigation is ongoing. No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Mark Nolte, Dion Hopkins Accident near Burns
I often mention on this blog that accidents with commercial trucks are quite complicated, and that's no less true when a crash is between two or more of them. Most trucking companies won't accept responsibility without a fight, so while they bicker back and forth about who's to blame in Wyoming the people affected by the wreck may be stuck waiting to see who'll help them.
It seems from how the crash is described that both companies might have reason to pass the buck to the other. One the one hand the truck on the shoulder was allegedly partway into the travel lane, and on the other the truck on the roadway didn't avoid it while passing through. There are also many other potential factors still to consider: Visibility, road conditions, and exactly why the truck was on the shoulder in the first place are just a few of the details that must be accounted for.
I'm not trying to overcomplicate things here. I'm just saying that almost no crash--but especially one like this--is really straightforward. That may just sound cynical, but it comes from plenty of experience helping truck drivers and families whose lives were changed forever by such accidents. When it's time to hold someone accountable all notions of teamster brotherhood evaporate, at least as far as the companies and their lawyers are concerned.
Furthermore, many commercial drivers believe their only recourse is through workers' compensation after these accidents. It's true that they may get some assistance from that program, but on principle the parties responsible for their damages should also help them get back on their feet. Ensuring they do that requires abundant clear proof, though, so taking the necessary steps after any accident is vital.