Car wreckage sends message

John Colson

What’s left of a car in which two local youths died two years ago has begun making the rounds of area schools and public events in a safety display designed to warns kids about the dangers of drunk driving.

The car, a black 1996 Nissan Maxima, plunged down an embankment off Castle Creek Road on May 26, 1997, killing passengers Danny Axtell, 20, of Aspen, and Norris Hill, 19, of Snowmass Village, and seriously injuring another passenger.

It was reported at the time that the car was moving at speeds exceeding 100 mph, but it is now believed the vehicle’s speed was nearer to 90 mph when it went over the side of the road, down the embankment and into an apartment building at the Marolt Ranch.

The driver and owner of the car, Danny Bissig, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and driving while ability impaired, and sentenced to three months in jail.

According to Trooper Richard Duran of the Colorado State Patrol, the car was donated to the patrol by the McMillan Claim Services, Inc., insurance agency. It has been mounted on a flatbed trailer by Professional Auto Body of Glenwood Springs – another donation to the display.

The display went public at the Strawberry Days festival in Glenwood Springs earlier this summer, and will be taken to various schools, civic events and other venues over the course of the next five years, Duran said.

Duran said the patrol had not contacted the families of those involved in the accident, but noted that the mothers of the driver and one of those who died saw the display in Glenwood Springs and indicated they approved of its use as a deterrent to drunk driving among teenagers.

According to Duran, the car is being displayed with a sign that reads, “A Deadly Combination,” in reference to alcohol and high speeds, which was donated by The Sign Man in Carbondale, meaning the entire project did not cost the patrol any money.

He said it will be making the rounds of the local schools, including Aspen High School, during the school years, “primarily right before senior prom and graduation.”

Local high school student Loren Cassin, who said she was acquainted with those in the car, said the patrol has brought similar displays to the school in the past.

“It just really makes people think,” she said. “It was a wake-up call.”

As for seeing the black Nissan Maxima itself, she said, “It would have kind of weirded me out.”