Charges likely after car crash in Basalt
BASALT ” An El Jebel man was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when the vehicle he was driving plowed into the car of a Basalt couple Thursday night, Basalt police said on Monday.
Oscar Canas Portillo, 32, likely will be charged with suspicion of two counts of vehicular assault causing serious bodily injury; driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs; driving under the influence with an excessive blood-alcohol level; and driving while his license was under revocation for a prior alcohol-related offense, Sgt. Stewart Curry said.
Canas Portillo hasn’t been arrested yet. An Eagle County judge is reviewing an arrest warrant.
Investigators believe Canas Portillo borrowed another person’s Chevy Blazer while they were drinking at a downtown Basalt establishment shortly after 10:30 p.m. Thursday. They said he crossed the centerline on Two Rivers Road about one mile west of downtown and slammed head on into the vehicle of John “Jeff” Reese and Susan L. Grove.
Reese and Grove, who were married about one year ago, both suffered head injuries and remained unconscious Monday at Denver Health Medical Center, Curry said. A hospital spokeswoman said both Grove and Reese were in critical condition.
Emergency responders said Reese and Grove were wearing their seatbelts and that air bags deployed, but the collision was forceful enough to result in serious injuries.
Reese is a native Aspenite who recently returned to the area and works for the Marolt accounting firm. Family friend and work colleague Roger Marolt said Reese suffered a broken ankle, three broken ribs, a head injury and possible neck injury. Grove suffered a broken leg, a broken hip, a head injury and a possibly spine injury. Marolt said he learned of their injuries through Jeff’s father, John “Jack” Reese of Aspen. The good news, Marolt said, is that the vital signs of both Grove and Reese were strong.
Canas Portillo suffered a broken lower leg in the accident, Curry said, and he remained in Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs on Monday. The man initially denied being responsible for the accident, but confessed in a later interview when an officer fluent in Spanish was present, Curry said.
“Oscar admitted to being the driver of that vehicle,” Curry said. The prior conviction for an alcohol-related driving offense appeared to be in Colorado but outside the Roaring Fork Valley, the officer said.
Canas Portillo agreed to allow the hospital to turn over his medical records to the police. The record showed the level of alcohol in his blood exceeded the legal limit when he arrived at Valley View, Curry said. The officer described Canas Portillo as cooperative.
“He feels pretty bad,” Curry said. “He’s definitely in good shape and these guys are in bad shape.”
Police anticipate arresting Canas Portillo when he is discharged from the hospital.
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A technical glitch Monday that led to long waits for COVID-19 booster shots at a clinic at Buttermilk should be fixed in the near future, and any Pitkin County resident who wants a booster will get one.