WINTER PARK — A 52-year-old Nevada man entered Moffat Tunnel Friday afternoon, causing a tunnel closure and triggering a response from three law enforcement agencies.
Danny Lawrence, of Reno, triggered a camera alarm at the tunnel’s east end around 4 p.m., prompting the Union Pacific Railroad to contact the Winter Park Police, Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office and Grand County Sheriff’s Office, said Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis.
The tunnel’s east portal is in Gilpin County, while the west portal is in the town of Winter Park. Authorities weren’t sure how far Winter Park’s jurisdiction extended into the tunnel’s west end, so the Grand County Sheriff’s Office was also contacted, said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.
After responding to the call, a Gilpin County Sheriff’s deputy and a Union Pacific track worker entered the tunnel’s east portal on a high-rail truck.
They made contact with Lawrence about a mile from the east portal, said Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor. The Gilpin County Sheriff’s deputy took Lawrence into custody and escorted him to the tunnel’s west portal, where he was turned over to Winter Park Police.
Union Pacific closed the tunnel for more than three hours, delaying four freight trains and an Amtrak, while authorities removed the man, Davis said. They reopened the tunnel around 7:20 p.m.
Winter Park Police then transported the man to the Winter Park Police Station, where he collapsed after stepping out of the patrol car, Trainor said. He was transported by ambulance to Middle Park Medical Center.
After Lawrence was released from Middle Park Medical Center, Grand County Sheriff’s deputies gave him a courtesy ride to Empire, Johnson said. Lawrence was not charged with a crime.
“It’s not unusual for the railroad not to press charges,” Johnson said.
Lawrence, who was carrying a Nevada driver’s license, said he was trying to reach I-70, according to Johnson.
“He wanted to get over to the interstate,” he said. “I think his plans were to hitchhike.”
Trainor said it’s not unusual for Winter Park Police to receive calls about people near the tunnel.
“We receive several reports a year of people going up to the tunnel’s edge,” he said. “I mean, a lot of people think it’s cool, and they want to go up to and take pictures or whatever.”
But it’s much more rare for someone to actually enter the tunnel, which presents a threat to homeland security, he said.
“Obviously the biggest concern is someone wanting to do damage to the tunnel,” Trainor said.
Davis advised against anyone attempting to enter a railroad tunnel.
“I think the overall safety message here is it’s extremely dangerous to enter any kind of railroad tunnel,” Davis said. “Not only do you not know when a train would be coming, but there’s also not that much clearance in the tunnels for a person and a train.”
Reporter Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.