BASALT - Basalt police arrested a South Carolina man Sunday night on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and careless driving after he allegedly drove off Emma Road into a ranch pasture and hit a cow.
Stephen Tyler Lemmons, 27, of Chesterfield, S.C., had allegedly visited a Midland Avenue bar and was using his GPS system in his car to find Highway 82 when the mishap occurred, according to Basalt police officers. Although he was staying in Snowmass Village, Lemmons somehow ended up going downvalley on Emma Road, which parallels Highway 82 for a short distance in the midvalley.
About a half-mile west of the Basalt post office, Lemmons drove his Chrysler 300 off the roadway and through a fence in a cow pasture on the Grange family ranch, according to Basalt Officer Ernie Mack. He said he was called to the scene around 9 p.m. for a report of a non-injury accident. The pasture is on both sides of the road to the Basalt Water and Sanitation Plant.
Lemmons' vehicle had gone through a fence and was stuck, but he was trying to get it back to the paved road, roughly 20 feet away, according to Mack. When contacted by the officer, Lemmons allegedly acknowledged that he drank two beers at a downtown bar, Mack said. He is a worker for a telecommunications company that is working in the Roaring Fork Valley, Mack said. He was staying in Snowmass Village and was trying to find his way back home, according to Mack.
"He said he was just trying to follow his GPS," Mack said.
The main intersection of Basalt can be confusing for visitors. The journey between Highway 82 and downtown requires negotiating a jumble that includes a roundabout, doglegs, twists and turns.
Mack said he was concerned about Lemmons' ability to drive. He administered a roadside sobriety test, which he said Lemmons failed. Lemmons requested a breath test and blew a "pretty high" blood-alcohol content, Mack said. He didn't release the level.
Mack said since he responded to the call in the dark of night, he didn't realize a cow grazing in the pasture was allegedly hit by Lemmons' car. Officers were alerted about the bovine injury by the Granges the following morning.
"They found one of their cows had a broken leg," Mack said.
"The Granges had to put the cow down, and they said it cost them $1,200," Basalt Sgt. Stu Curry wrote in an email.
Mack said the car had significant damage but that Lemmons adamantly denied he struck a cow. Authorities were able to get the car unstuck with little trouble.