Aspen chef slammed in hit and run
December 29, 2011
ASPEN – A veteran French chef who recently moved to Aspen to make a new start after the bottom fell out of the St. Croix economy was injured in a hit-and-run accident on Tuesday, according to his fiancee.
Daniel Theme – a celebrity chef who has appeared on various international TV programs over the years – was hit by a westbound white BMW sport utility vehicle as he was crossing Main Street to get to the North Mill Street bus stop near the Pitkin County Library, said his fiancee, Teresa Wyatt.
She said he was treated and released at Aspen Valley Hospital a few hours after the 3 p.m. incident. Though bruised and suffering from a concussion, Theme emerged on his own from the accident scene and stumbled to their residence in the Hunter Creek area, where an ambulance picked him up and took him to the hospital, Wyatt said.
Theme, 61, works at the four-week-old bistro Creperie du Village on South Mill Street beneath Radio Boardshop. He also serves as a personal chef and caterer. He is a native of Provence, a region of southeastern France.
His new career in Aspen was just getting under way. Wyatt said he has no health insurance and faces an unknown number of bills for the medical attention related to the incident.
And now, recuperating at home, he won’t be able to work during the busiest time of year.
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“I’m trying hard not to panic,” Wyatt said. “The vehicle hit him and threw him across the street, and he landed by the Hotel Jerome. It’s a miracle that he wasn’t hurt worse or killed. The next person might not be so lucky.”
Wyatt said she is speaking about the accident not to gather sympathy but to warn residents and visitors about the dangerous conditions pedestrians face in Aspen during the busy winter tourist season.
Admittedly, Theme was tired and tried to cross the intersection quickly, running to catch the Hunter Creek bus against a “don’t walk” symbol, Wyatt said. But in a resort community with thousands of people roaming the city streets during the winter holiday and ski seasons, more safeguards should be put in place to protect pedestrians, she said.
Mainly, Wyatt is asking for help in locating the driver of the vehicle. She said Theme has described it as dirty, with a male driver and two other occupants.
The driver continued on its way, and no witnesses or bystanders offered assistance, according to Theme’s account as told to Wyatt.
“The vehicle did not stop,” Wyatt said. “There were a million people there, and no one stopped. No one called 911. I’m shocked by that, but that’s that New York thing. It’s so busy, and everybody is thinking, ‘Someone else did it.’ “
Wyatt said she is seeking information about the vehicle that hit Theme because the driver should be held accountable for medical fees.
“Whoever this person is, I need them to pay for it because we don’t have insurance,” she said.
Aspen Police Officer Dave Rosselot said there are no strong leads in the case and that the incident likely will be investigated by the Aspen Police Department’s Community Safety Division.
Rosselot said the city is full of motorists and that pedestrians should exercise extreme caution. He said that so far there are no witnesses to the incident, but anyone who wants to come forward with information is encouraged to call the department’s main line at 970-920-5400.
On Wednesday at 7 p.m., Wyatt said Theme had been sleeping for most of the previous 24 hours without eating. He was unable to swallow and had a fever.
Theme moved to Aspen to join Wyatt, a three-time resident of the area, in June. In the past, before economic conditions rocked their life in St. Croix, he hosted his own TV show on the Univision and Telemundo networks. He speaks English, French, Spanish and a considerable amount of Portuguese and Italian, Wyatt said.
“Things were tough in St. Croix,” she said. “I was tired of the heat and the violence. The hedge-funders left, and the economy there collapsed, which made it rough on him. We didn’t know where to go. We just kept getting shot down.
“He needed to do anything, and eventually we decided to try Aspen. It’s a friendly place. I’m grateful and happy to be back here. He’s got a lot of potential, and when he gets through this, we’ll figure it out somehow.”
Wyatt, who worked in local radio during the 1980s, can be reached via email at email@example.com.