Authorities have yet to identify the driver who was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 82 near Basalt early Saturday morning.
A trooper from the Glenwood Springs office of the Colorado State Patrol said the identification will be released by the Garfield County Coroner’s Office when it is confirmed. The trooper said that no ID was found on the male driver, making the process difficult.
Attempts to reach the coroner by phone on Sunday were without success.
Authorities say the deceased man was driving a Toyota sedan in the eastbound, or upvalley, lane of the highway around midnight Saturday when he crossed the median just west of the Cerise Ranch subdivision, between El Jebel and the Catherine Store. His vehicle hit a Toyota SUV driven by Chris Tipton, 48, of Carbondale, who was traveling on the left side of the westbound lane along the four-lane highway.
Basalt and Carbondale firefighters were alerted at 12:05 a.m. to the scene, where they undertook a complicated extrication of the deceased man from his vehicle due to the nature of the head-on collision. Highway 82 was closed in both directions for about four hours during the accident investigation.
Tipton was transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for treatment of a broken collarbone and was released later on Saturday.
Alcohol is being considered as a possible contributing factor to the crash, state police said. The weather was clear and the road was dry at the time of the crash.
Tipton — who just before the collision had finished a work shift at an Aspen hotel — said he never saw the other driver coming. He said his vehicle’s airbags deployed during the accident.
The accident occurred near mile-marker 16, Tipton said. The location is not far from where a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus with 11 passengers crashed in October while swerving to avoid a slow-moving tractor.
“I was just going home,” he said. “It happened in about a second. I didn’t even have a chance to hit the brakes.”
He said he wasn’t quite sure how the incident evolved. He said he didn’t think the other vehicle’s headlights were on.
Had the headlights been on, “I’m sure I could have avoided him,” Tipton said.
Tipton said another vehicle was passing him on the right side of the westbound lane just before the accident. That section of highway has a 65 mph speed limit.
He believes his SUV made a 180-degree turn following impact. On Saturday night he said he was reflecting on how lucky he was to have escaped with minor injuries.
“I’ll probably be contacting Toyota to tell them how well their airbag system works,” Tipton said.
The driver of the Toyota sedan was pronounced dead on the scene, authorities said.
“I’m sorting through the fact that another person died from this situation,” Tipton said.