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Parents sue driver, Colorado towing company over fatal bridge strike

Mother killed, son injured after tractor-trailer with oversized load crashes into overpass

A mother was killed and her son was injured following a tractor-trailer's bridge strike on Aug. 8 near Mead, Colorado. (Photo credits: CDOT/Michael Kane)

The parents of a woman killed last month after a trucker crashed into an overpass on Interstate 25 in Colorado have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the towing company and the driver.

According to court documents, Megan Arneson, 32, of Weld County, Colorado, and her 10-year-old son, Joe Duenas, were driving northbound on I-25 around 6 p.m. MDT on Aug. 8 near Mead, Colorado, when the tractor-trailer in front of them struck the bridge with the excavator the driver was hauling.

Despite her efforts to avoid the falling debris, a large piece of concrete crashed through Arneson’s windshield. Her vehicle continued north before coming to rest in the center median against the cable rail. Arneson, a single mother and preschool teacher, died at the scene. However, her son survived after being pulled out of the 2011 Honda CR-V by a couple who witnessed the crash. 

On the day of the crash, Arneson and her son were driving home from a day trip to a waterpark near Denver.

Photo of the excavator after the bridge strike. (Photo: CDOT)

Brian Christianson and Mirella “Isabel” Williams, Arneson’s parents and her son’s guardians, recently filed suit in Larimer County District Court against Import Towing and Recovery of Fort Collins, Colorado, and its truck driver, Darnell Yingling, 52, of Larimer County. 

A representative for Import Towing did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website, Import Towing has 14 power units and five drivers. Over the past 24 months, the company’s trucks have been inspected 11 times with none being placed out of service.

Import Towing’s website states the company has been serving northern Colorado and southern Wyoming since 1985.

Trooper Joshua Lewis, public information officer with the Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS), told FreightWaves on Tuesday that the agency’s final report on the fatal crash “has not yet been completed/approved.”

As of publication, Lewis added that “charges have not yet been filed against Mr. Yingling.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation lists the maximum clearance height of 17 feet, 1 inch for the overpass at milepost 245 where the bridge strike with the excavator occurred. Tractor-trailers hauling loads over 14 feet require a special permit, which Yingling did not obtain before hauling the piece of heavy equipment, the Colorado State Patrol told CBS News Colorado

Attorney Michael Kane, who is representing Arneson’s parents, is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount of money to cover medical expenses, physical and mental pain and suffering for their grandson, impairment of quality of life and emotional distress, according to the suit.

“It was obvious that driving on a crowded major highway with a load too tall to clear an underpass would cause death and destruction,” Kane said in a statement.

A review of the complaint is set for Nov. 10, according to the court docket. 

Repairs to the I-25 overpass that was struck by the excavator are expected to take two months. Photo: CDOT

According to CDOT, repairs to the overpass will be made over the next two months to “get the bridge repaired to accommodate two-way traffic as it did before the crash.”

“We believe that [Megan Arneson’s] violent and traumatic death was completely preventable, and we want to do everything in our power to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” Arneson’s parents said in a statement.

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected].