Charges unlikely in backcountry collision
January 30, 2007
ASPEN The witnesses to a backcountry accident that severely injured a snowboarder have given conflicting statements that make charges unlikely, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said Tuesday.”Right now we don’t feel that any crime was committed,” Braudis said.The biggest point of contention among the witnesses is the speed of a snowmobile that collided with snowboarder Doran Laybourn on Jan. 14. The driver of the snowmobile and a skier getting towed up Richmond Ridge with the driver estimated the speed of the sled at 12-15 mph at the time of the accident, Braudis said.Justin Gordon, who was riding with Laybourn on the day of the accident, said he felt the snowmobile was traveling much faster.”From what I saw, the snowmobile was definitely going faster than 12 mph,” Gordon said in a statement e-mailed to The Aspen Times. “Both parties are going to have their own side of the story when it comes to who is at fault.”Braudis said his department hasn’t reached a conclusion yet and an investigator is scheduled to meet with Laybourn early next week. The sheriff’s office wants to complete that interview before closing the case.Laybourn and Gordon were riding down a groomed route near Hurricane Point on Richmond Ridge when they encountered the snowmobile coming around a blind corner. The accident occurred just south of the intersection of Richmond Ridge Road and Little Annie Road.The snowmobile struck and shattered Laybourn’s right leg. His face collided with the snowmobiler’s helmet. Laybourn suffered broken bones and lacerations to his face and head, according to his father, Royal Laybourn. He also lost several teeth.Royal said Aspen Valley Hospital released Doran on Friday, and he is now bedridden at home. He needs to visit the hospital every other day to change bandages and also faces additional surgeries. Laybourn, a professional snowboarder, had health insurance coverage, his father said.The snowmobile driver suffered a concussion, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The sheriff’s office hasn’t released the name of the driver or his passenger, citing department policy on open cases.Royal Laybourn said he didn’t want to “feed a controversy” by commenting on lack of charges in the case. He said he sticks to his earlier comments that his son gained incredibly quick reflexes during years of riding. He believes Doran could have dodged a snowmobile traveling 12 to 15 mph.Laybourn also said he has questions about the actions of the snowmobile driver and skier getting towed after the accident. He said it was obviously a “frenetic” scene because of the blood and injuries. Doran made the decision that he needed to be evacuated rather than stabilized at the scene while waiting for help, according to Royal.Once that decision was made, Gordon transported Doran to the ski patrol hut near the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain, nearly 3 miles from the crash scene. Gordon and Laybourn had their own snowmobile on Richmond Ridge.Royal Laybourn said the information he heard indicated that neither the snowmobile driver nor the man he was towing, allegedly a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen, offered or provided any aid.”Actions speak louder than words,” he said.Gordon was also critical of the actions of the other men in the aftermath of the accident.”If the driver of the snowmobile was driving his car on the backside and he struck someone on a bicycle and they were seriously injured and had to be rushed off to help, would it be all right for him to just leave the scene? I don’t think so. Why is this any different?” Gordon asked.The man the snowmobile was towing allegedly offered no aid except helping lift Doran onto the snowmobile, according to Gordon.In his description of the scene after the wreck, Gordon wrote: “The whole time the driver continued to rant around arguing with me, while proclaiming his innocence, rather than try to help the person he just smashed into. He had no compassion what so ever. I tried to use his sled to get to mine about a hundred feet away and he threw a hissy fit on me. I was absolutely stunned.”Royal Laybourn said he is mostly concerned at this point about the public safety on the back side of Aspen, where there is a heavy mix of winter uses. The area attracts everything from the Aspen Skiing Co.’s powder tours served by snowcats to cross-country skiers. Snowmobilers ride trails and some skiers and riders use snowmobiles to access powder stashes. All users flock to the area on powder days.Royal Laybourn said after his son’s accident, several people have told him of “near misses” they had up there. He wants the Sheriff’s Office to determine if signs or other methods could improve safety.Laybourn said his goal is to help prevent some other family from facing what his family has faced.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.