Area high school students survive car crash into Maroon Creek
Excessive speed was a factor in a car crash Wednesday night on Maroon Creek Road near the T-Lazy 7 Ranch that injured five area high school students, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
An 18-year-old Aspen man at the wheel of the northbound 2017 Tesla X swerved for unknown reasons and the car went off the right side of the road, became airborne, hit a large tree and rolled into Maroon Creek, Trooper Gary Cutler, a CSP spokesman, said Thursday. CSP received a call about the accident at 7:55 p.m., he said.
The 18-year-old driver suffered serious injuries and was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, Cutler said. An 18-year-old female passenger suffered life-threatening injuries, and her mother later posted on Facebook that she was in intensive care with a broken arm, broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage. Still, the mother posted, “All OK.”
Another 18-year-old female passenger suffered moderate injuries, while a 17-year-old male was seriously injured and an 18-year-old man escaped with minor injuries. All were taken to AVH, Cutler said. One may have later been flown to a Denver hospital, though that could not be confirmed Thursday.
A T-Lazy 7 Ranch resident, who was one of the first people on the scene, said it appeared the teens missed a curve, flew off the road, rolled down a 20-foot embankment and into Maroon Creek. Jesse Deane, 27, said his father called him Wednesday evening and told him a car was in the river and people needed assistance.
“He said a girl was still in the vehicle,” Deane said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was safe and stable.”
When he reached the car, he said he found a man and woman still inside, though neither appeared seriously injured. Both were conscious and responsive and were not trapped, he said.
Three others who were in the car were on the road at the time and also did not appear seriously injured, Deane said.
The car may have flown as much as 100 feet into the air and down the embankment into the river, he said.
Police and paramedics arrived about the same time as Deane, who helped them carry the girl out of the car.
Alex Burchetta, operations director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said all the occupants of the car were area high school students.
Deane praised the safety measures built into the Tesla.
“They were extremely fortunate,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, it flew 100 feet before landing.”
The father of one of the passengers, who was at the crash scene Thursday afternoon, said the car had been traveling 75 to 100 mph when it left the road. The car then hit the tree and broke into three pieces before settling in a shallow part of the river, he said. If the water was any deeper, drowning could have been a factor, he said.
James Gordon, the city of Aspen’s hydroelectric operator who was at the crash scene Thursday afternoon, also said the passengers were lucky.
“I can’t believe these kids walked away from this,” he said. “Trees usually win.”
Cutler did not have any information about whether State Patrol will charge the driver in connection with the crash.
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Pitkin County residents are coming out in droves to apply for financial assistance through a local relief fund. Almost 60 percent of the 800-plus applicants are Aspen residents.