Accident victim was an advocate for autistic kids | AspenTimes.com

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Accident victim was an advocate for autistic kids

Elizabeth Birt, who died in a two-car collision near Aspen on Wednesday, “was not just another tourist” but a nationally known advocate for autistic children, according to letters to The Aspen Times.Birt, 49 – a Chicago-area attorney with three children, one of whom is autistic – had been cited in congressional reports on autism and in a book on the subject, her associates say.A resident of Wilmette, Ill., she was in Aspen visiting friends this week. The 2006 Ford Taurus she was in – which her fiance, Steven Felt, 52, also of Wilmette, was driving – allegedly ran a red turn-light at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, into the path of an oncoming truck.The Colorado State Patrol does not believe either alcohol or speeding played a role in the accident.The occupants of the truck, Mary and Blake Williams of Snowmass Village, both 31, suffered minor injuries in the collision and drove themselves to Aspen Valley Hospital later in the day.Badly injured in the wreck was the driver’s son, Michael Felt, 13, who was sitting in the back seat of the Taurus. All three were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, and Michael was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver, where he was in critical condition Thursday evening.Friends of Birt and the Felt family who contacted The Aspen Times about the accident said the impact of the truck crushed Michael’s chest. He also suffered a broken thigh, friends said, and there are concerns about possible brain damage.Several e-mails from associates of Birt referred to her work in the field of autism.According to the letters, which have come from various parts of the country, Birt was a founder of two national organizations dealing with autism – Medical Interventions for Autism, a nonprofit investigating the links between inflammatory bowel disease, immune system disorders, viruses from vaccines and autism; and an advocacy group called SafeMinds, for which she was general counsel.A book by David Kirby titled “Evidence of Harm,” about the presence of mercury in vaccines and its theoretical link to autism, profiled her life and work, according to a letter from Kara Friedman of Chicago.”Liz is a hero in the autism community worldwide,” said Becky Simpson, secretary of the Maryland Autism Recovery Coalition. “She is greatly loved, and she will be greatly missed.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com