2 killed when vehicle plunges into Fryingpan River

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Firefighters with Basalt Fire Department enter the Fryingpan River Saturday afternoon during the recovery of a vehicle that plunged into the river after going down a steep embankment.
Basalt Fire Department/Courtesy photo |

Two women were found dead Saturday in a SUV submerged in the Fryingpan River about 4.2 miles east of Basalt, according to the Basalt Fire Department and Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

The Basalt Fire Department was paged at 4:44 p.m. with the report of a vehicle fully submerged in the river. The first firefighter on the scene reported that the vehicle was about 10 feet off the bank, with the SUV facing upstream at a 45-degree angle. First responders on the scene reported that the air bags had deployed and they couldn’t determine if bodies were in the vehicle.

“One of our firefighters entered the water and hooked a winch to the vehicle,” Basalt Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bradshaw said. The vehicle was pulled closer to shore to a “workable place,” he said.

“Two female occupants were deceased on the scene,” Bradshaw said.

The vehicle sustained minor damage in the crash and remained upright when it went into the river, Bradshaw said.

“The reporting party was a cyclist who saw the vehicle in the river,” Bradshaw said. When the call came in, it was unknown if anyone was injured or still in the vehicle, indicating the crash wasn’t witnessed, he said. Therefore, it wasn’t immediately known when the vehicle entered the river.

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis responded to the scene and anticipated a lengthy investigation. She said identities wouldn’t be released Saturday night because she has to establish the identities and notify next of kin.

Traffic was stopped on Fryingpan Road in both directions starting at about 5 p.m. and reopened at about 9:15 p.m. The site of the accident was about half a mile downstream of the Seven Castles area.

A Colorado State Patrol investigator determined that a 2016 Kia Sedona was northbound on Fryingpan Road when it went off the right side for 30 feet before hitting a delineator post, according to the trooper’s report. The SUV then traveled another 70 feet and down a steep embankment before plunging into the river. The investigation isn’t complete yet, said Sgt. Rob Madden, a public information officer with the State Patrol.

“One of the big things is (determining) when the car went off the road,” he said.