Text message confirms driver in fatal rollover | AspenTimes.com

Text message confirms driver in fatal rollover

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Saying the victim was behind the wheel, Snowmass Village police have closed the investigation into the rollover accident on Owl Creek Road that killed Hector Quezada, 33, of Snowmass Village.

Following the Aug. 10 accident in which the Isuzu Trooper belonging to Brandon Howard, 26, of Snowmass, flipped after crossing Sinclair Divide, investigators were uncertain which of four men in the vehicle at the time was driving.

Quezada was killed upon impact. Howard and another man were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital with minor injuries, while another passenger was uninjured and left the scene.

But based on witness testimony and a recently discovered text message, there is definitive proof that Quezada was driving, said Snowmass police Sgt. Brian Olson.

“We finished up our interviews with a couple of individuals who witnessed the vehicle, including one couple who was almost involved in the accident,” he said.

The couple testified that the Trooper almost ran into them, and the driver gave a clear description of Quezada as the man behind the wheel, Olson said. Drugs and alcohol contributed to the accident.

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The four men, who had been golfing at the Aspen Golf Club before the accident, had tried to arrange a ride with friends, but were unable to set anything up, Olson said.

Moments after leaving the club for Snowmass Village, one of the men sent a text message to another friend saying they were “on their way” and that the victim was driving. The text message was received at 7:20 p.m., just a few minutes before the accident.

“With that knowledge, on top of talking with the witnesses, we’re absolutely certain that Hector was the driver,” Olson said.

Police had planned to send more physical evidence from the scene ” including the steering wheel and gearshift ” to the state investigators, but scrapped the plan after the new evidence and more witness interviews.

Olson said Tuesday the case was closed.

There was some question about why the unhurt passenger left the scene shortly after the accident, however.

Though there is a state statute requiring passengers to stand by at any accident scene, police are not pursuing any charges, Olson said.

“He was literally distraught and freaked and didn’t know what to do,” Olson said of the passenger. “It was just his way of coping.”

The three other men in the vehicle were cooperative, and there was no evidence of conspiracy or cover-up.

Quezada family members visited the site of the accident recently, and Snowmass officers explained details of the incident to give family members a “good understanding” of what happened.

The victim’s family left a cross to honor him, and Olson hopes it will help raise awareness about driving safety.

cagar@aspentimes.com

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