Arson blamed for State Bridge blaze | AspenTimes.com

Arson blamed for State Bridge blaze

Steve Lynn
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Investigators sift through debris at the site of a June 2 fire at State Bridge Lodge in Bond. The Eagle County Sheriff's Office has determined that the fire was set intentionally. (Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily)
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BOND ” The fire June 2 at State Bridge Lodge was set intentionally, possibly to cover up a burglary that took place beforehand, said Detective Brandon Beaudette of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators had evidence of “obvious and intentional criminal activity before the fire,” said Beaudette, who declined to disclose that evidence.

“It could very well be a cover-up,” Beaudette said about the motive for the fire. “Like someone was trying to destroy evidence of their criminal act ” but that is speculation.”

The fire was not caused by electrical failure or by accident, he said. Investigators found an “area of origin” at the northeast corner of the building but have not yet determined the cause of the fire, he said. Beaudette did not have any suspects, but police would pursue multiple leads, he said.

Built in 1890, the main building that burned at State Bridge River Resort in Bond early June 2 contained a bar, office, bedroom, store and stage where concerts were held.

Scott Stoughton, general manager of State Bridge River Resort, had just finished giving a speech at a fundraising concert at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott when he heard news of the arson findings.

“Hearing this, I can’t explain it, it’s like a big punch in the stomach,” Stoughton said.

The lodge was not burned for insurance money, he added. State Bridge River Resort had minimal insurance coverage because it could not afford better coverage, he said.

“That would just be asinine that one of us would do it,” Stoughton said.

Before the fire, State Bridge River Resort’s owner wanted to sell the property for about $2.2 million, Stoughton said. Stoughton has worked at the lodge through four owners, he said.

The northeast corner of the building was the game room, he said. Stoughton did not recall anyone ever burglarizing the lodge, he said.

“If somebody knows something, then they should step up because they not only wrecked a beautiful building but they are crushing our spirit,” Stoughton said.

The possibility that Stoughton or manager John Ryder ” who both lived in State Bridge Lodge ” started the fire was “very unlikely,” but Beaudette would not rule out anyone as a suspect Sunday night, Beaudette said.

A dog that worked at the fire scene Monday and Wednesday indicated the presence of hydrocarbons ” usually found in petroleum ” in the area of origin, he said. Those suspected “accelerants” ” substances such as gasoline that are used to make fires burn faster ” were sent to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation laboratory for analysis, he said.

Beaudette declined to reveal what was stolen from the lodge.

“I know they made an attempt to take something that was not destroyed in the fire,” Beaudette said.

“It helps a little in court when you can say this person was aware of that fact when that fact was not released to public,” he said.

Beaudette thought Thursday that an arson was committed, but the Sheriff’s Office did not release that information because it “needed to go through some administrative approval,” he said.

Beaudette and investigators from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked 80 hours last week, Beaudette said.

“You have to go into investigations objectively, and I did that,” Beaudette said. “I was very disappointed to see all the evidence and that it did point to an intentionally set fire.”

Beaudette thought the fire was started sometime between 2 and 4:15 a.m., he said. A “fair amount” of people were in the area, and witnesses saw the area the fire first burned, Beaudette said.

Cell-phone coverage is scant or nonexistent in the area, Beaudette said. He declined to name those witnesses.

The morning of the fire, manager John Ryder was sleeping in the lodge, Beaudette said.

Ryder’s dog, Tatiana, woke him up at 4:28 a.m., and shortly after, Ryder went outside to find the bar and deck on fire, Ryder has said. He escaped with his dog and the clothes on his back and drove four miles to Rancho del Rio to call for help, he has said.

Ryder called about the fire at 4:54 a.m., Beaudette said. A sheriff’s deputy arrived first at 5:16 a.m., and firefighters began arriving at 5:24 a.m., Beaudette said.

Police want anyone with information to call 328-7007 or 1-800-972-TIPS. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest or indictment of a suspect or both.


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