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Van Crash Kills 4 in Wildfire Crew

June 22, 2002

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PARACHUTE, Colo. (AP) _ A van carrying fire personnel to a wildfire southwest of Denver crashed Friday night, killing four passengers and injuring at least three others, a state trooper said.

Colorado State Patrol spokesman Don Moseman said the van was from La Grande, Ore., and was carrying 11 people. It veered off Interstate 70, near Parachute, then rolled several times before resting upright.

The van was part of a convoy of eight vehicles en route to the 137,000-acre blaze, the state’s largest.

``We had a lot of distraught people out there,″ Moseman said. ``Of course in a convoy, some of their group saw it happen. It was very rough for them.″

Two passengers were hospitalized in critical condition and another was in serious condition. Trooper Rob Marone said four others were taken to a hospital, but he didn’t know the extent of their injuries.

The cause of the accident was under investigation, but Moseman said it appeared the driver was momentarily distracted or possibly was reaching for something inside the vehicle.

Moseman said some firefighters and support personnel in the convoy stayed in the area. Others continued on to the 137,000-acre blaze, which has forced 8,900 people from their homes since it began June 8 and has destroyed at least 79 homes.

Parachute is about 170 miles west of Denver.

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