Aspen driver cited in Basalt accident with cars, pedestrians
August 3, 2010
BASALT – Police cited an Aspen man for careless driving last week after he allegedly drove his vehicle over a curb and onto a sidewalk before smacking three vehicles and coming perilously close to two young girls, Sgt. Roderick O’Connor said Monday.
Basalt police also asked the Colorado Department of Revenue’s motor vehicle division to retest 82-year-old Kenneth Gutner to see if he should possess a driver’s license, O’Connor said.
The accident occurred on July 23. Gutner was issued the citation July 28. Police were criticized in a letter to the editor for their response by a victim who said her vehicle was “totaled” in the crash. Her letter alleged no citation was issued. O’Connor said Monday he wanted to clarify misperceptions.
A ticket wasn’t immediately issued because the officer in charge of the investigation was compiling information and helping comfort the two young girls who were knocked down during the mishap, O’Connor said. Officer Penny Paxton informed Gutner at the scene, before he was released, that he would be ticketed, according to O’Connor. She also needed to consider whether to issue a ticket for reckless driving or careless driving, he noted.
Paxton prepared the ticket for careless driving when she returned to work the following week. There was an additional delay in getting Gutner to acknowledge receipt of the ticket because “he claimed he didn’t do anything wrong,” O’Connor said. Gutner feared that signing a ticket was acknowledgment of guilt rather than an agreement to appear in court.
The accident occurred at 3:44 p.m. near Basalt’s main intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue. Gutner pulled out from a parking space on Midland Avenue in front of Community Banks of Colorado, the police report says. Gutner was headed east as he approached the intersection. He attempted a U-turn but ran over ornamental river rock at the curb and ended up on the sidewalk, the report says.
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He proceeded forward until his Subaru allegedly hit a parked GMC Yukon. The Yukon struck another car, a Dodge Durango, which was also parked in a diagonal space. There were conflicting reports on whether Gutner’s vehicle or the Durango bumped an 11-year-old girl, who was carrying her 3-year-old sister. They were uninjured despite getting knocked down. They were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital as a precaution, O’Connor said.
No one was injured in the crash. “If he hadn’t run into those cars and had continued going down the sidewalk, it would have been a whole different ballgame,” O’Connor said.
After striking the car, Gutner put his Subaru in reverse, striking a third vehicle and a fence alongside the adjacent mobile home park. Four police officers responded to the scene.
“We had it well-covered. We take these things extremely seriously,” O’Connor said.
Sgt. Stu Curry, who O’Connor described as a “DUI expert,” talked to Gutner and determined he wasn’t intoxicated. Gutner was allowed to drive away from the scene.
Gutner told officers his accelerator stuck. Investigating officers suspect he may have hit the accelerator rather than the brake as he maneuvered the car during the U-turn attempt, according to O’Connor.