Aspen driver mixes up pedals, hits cars, building
A 56-year-old suspected drunken driver crashed into two cars at Truscott Place Apartments on Tuesday before careening backward into the corner of an apartment building, police said Thursday.
Nikifor Budsey, who lives at Truscott, was attempting to pull into a handicapped parking spot at about 2 p.m. when he apparently confused the pedals in the full-size Chevy truck he was driving and stepped on the gas, said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn.
“There were people everywhere outside walking around,” Linn said. “In hindsight, we’re really fortunate nobody managed to get run over in all this.”
Budsey smelled of alcohol after the crash and had a preliminary blood-alcohol content that registered between double and triple the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, said Aspen police Assistant Sgt. Walter Chi, who declined to release the actual number.
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Eyewitnesses said that after Budsey stomped on the gas, he crashed into a Land Rover parked next to him and continued to push against the vehicle with his wheels spinning, Linn said. The force pushed the Land Rover into the vehicle parked next to it, while the Chevy’s spinning wheels gouged holes in the parking-lot asphalt, he said.
“(The damage) was pretty impressive honestly,” Linn said.
At some point, Budsey realized something was wrong and shifted the truck into reverse without taking his foot off the gas pedal, Linn said. The truck then hurtled across the sidewalk, over a set of stairs and a planter and into a corner of Truscott’s Building 100, he said.
Linn and another officer were the first on the scene and found Budsey still sitting behind the wheel of the truck talking to his wife, who’d come out of their apartment, Linn said. Officers initially thought a medical emergency might be to blame, though Linn said he knew of no evidence to indicate such an episode occurred.
“He clearly was having difficulty focusing on us and having a conversation with us,” Linn said.
Neighbors later told officers Budsey had a reputation for “having a taste for alcohol,” Linn said.
The Land Rover appeared to be totaled, while Budsey knocked down a 6-inch beam at the corner of the building that held up a porch, Linn said.
“It was a pretty spectacular crash,” Linn said. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
Pat Hinch, Truscott property manager, said Budsey damaged irrigation equipment, lattice work and a bit of the building’s corner.
“There was nothing major to my building,” Hinch said, adding that he didn’t yet have a damage estimate.
In August, Budsey was cited for reckless driving and failure to report an accident to police after he struck a 25-year-old skateboarder with his car at the intersection of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue in downtown Aspen and drove away, said Sarah Talbott, a prosecutor in Pitkin County Court.
He pleaded guilty to reckless driving on April 19, and the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charge of failure to report an accident, according to court records. Budsey had to pay fines and court costs but received no jail time, records state.
The court file for that case contains a handwritten note from Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely indicating concerns about Budsey’s driving.
“(He) continues to drive even though he appears to have little reaction time,” Fernandez-Ely wrote.
Talbott said the note stemmed from a lengthy discussion in court a month ago prompted by Budsey’s appearance.
“The defendant didn’t look well,” Talbott said. “He looked like he was recovering from a serious illness.”
However, Budsey’s wife told the judge he didn’t drive and that she wouldn’t let him do so, Talbott said.
Budsey’s driver’s license will definitely be addressed when he appears in court for the latest charges, Talbott said.
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.