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Driver pleads not guilty in Sp. Fork explosion

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PROVO — The driver of the explosives-laden truck that gutted a section of U.S. 6 when it ignited after a crash entered a not-guilty plea Tuesday to charges filed in connection with the Aug. 10 accident.

Travis Stewart, 32, Rexburg, Idaho, is charged in 4th District Court with causing a catastrophe and reckless endangerment, both class A misdemeanors, and one count of reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor.

Stewart's rig was carrying 36,000 pounds of seismic explosives when it jackknifed and skidded across the road in Spanish Fork Canyon. He was headed to Oklahoma from Ensign-Bickford, an explosives-manufacturing company in Spanish Fork.

The friction started a fire, igniting the cargo. The blast caused a 70-foot-wide crater in the road, mangled the nearby railroad tracks and started brushfires on the mountainside.

Stewart's attorney requested that a pretrial date be set for Feb. 15.

Stewart deferred comments to his attorney, who simply said that Stewart "stands by that plea of not guilty."

In August, officials at the scene of the accident said they believed speed was one factor for the accident, which injured at least 10 people. Stewart was flown by helicopter to University Hospital but has since recovered.

Concussion waves from the blast also blew out windshields and crumpled car frames.

The road was fixed within 36 hours, said Nile Easton, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman. The $180,000 repair cost doesn't include repairs to the Union Pacific line.

UDOT is seeking insurance money for the road damages.