Crash victim’s mother: Improve Highway 133 | AspenTimes.com
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Crash victim’s mother: Improve Highway 133

Naomi Havlen
The mother of a woman who was killed after swerving to miss deer on Highway 133 says the roadway needs more warning signs and guardrails. Aspen Times photo/Erin M. Cady.
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Family members of a woman killed on Highway 133 in October say they think more guardrails and warning signs on the road could have prevented her death.Ann Eaker, 39, and her roommate Melissa Hasperue, 35, were both killed Oct. 23 when their vehicle swerved suddenly and rolled down an embankment to the Crystal River. Both women, from Louisiana, had recently moved to Marble. The final report from the Colorado State Patrol said the accident was caused by animals in the road.”The ladies swerved to miss some deer in the road and ended up in the river,” said a state patrol trooper. Although there were no witnesses, investigators saw animal tracks in the dirt alongside the road where Hasperue’s car swerved.Eaker’s mother, Helene Toney, said she visited the scene and was surprised with the highway’s condition between Redstone and Marble.”I know they have warning signs in that area about fire danger, and they’ve taken care of that well,” she said. “I went to check to see how many signs they have regarding the deer crossings, and it’s horrible. It’s not enough.”Toney, who lives in New Orleans, is taking care of a greyhound that Ann owned at the time of her death. Another one of Eaker’s dogs was killed in the accident, according to Eaker’s brother, Lenny Karle-Zenith.

Toney said she also thinks the area needs more guardrails along the river. If there had been one there, the car may not have run off the road, she said.”I am angry at the state of Colorado – somebody needs to worry about motorists,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to go through the pain that I’ve been through.”It’s been a particularly tragic time on the highway. Eaker and Hasperue were two of four local women killed on the road in the past six months.In July, Jeanette Ware, 28, was killed when she drove off the road and down an embankment. Her car ended up on its roof in a deep stretch of the river. The circumstances of the accident that killed the Carbondale emergency medical technician and midwife were never clear.Most recently, on New Year’s Day a Fort Collins woman who was allegedly driving drunk on the highway nine miles outside of Carbondale lost control of her vehicle, which rolled down an embankment. Passenger Josanna Reece, 22, was killed on impact when the vehicle hit a tree.The driver, Stormy Lindblom, 25, faces a felony charge of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and careless driving causing bodily injury.

Jim Nall, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s traffic and safety engineer in this region, could not be reached for comment Friday.But Pitkin County deputy John Armstrong, who frequently patrols the portion of Highway 133 where the accidents occurred, said it’s a sad fact that people don’t take warning signs seriously.”My feeling is that people don’t read or pay attention to signs,” he said. “It’s pretty sad, but on highways and ski slopes people don’t take signs seriously at all.”Armstrong said he attributes many accidents on the road to excessive speed, although the speed limit in that area is appropriate for the curvy road and weather conditions.”The speed limit goes from 55 to 50 as soon as you enter the canyon after the meadows outside of Carbondale,” he said. “Half a mile before Redstone the speed limit goes down to 40 – most people don’t know that. And if the weather changes, it’s very appropriate that people should drive slower up there. Unfortunately, people don’t.”Speed was not thought to be a factor in the accidents that killed Ware, Hasperue or Eaker. But Armstrong said he still gets quite a few complaints about people speeding and passing recklessly on the road.

As for guardrails, he said there are a million places on state highways where guardrails would keep accidents on the road, but they aren’t needed if people obey speed limits.To reduce the risk of wildlife on the roads, Armstrong said, the state patrol needs to inform motorists about the large numbers of animals on mountain roads and the fact that they should not swerve when they encounter one.In November a man driving on Highway 82 swerved to miss an injured deer in the road between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The car flipped and his 28-year-old passenger was killed. “I think a lot of people move here from urban areas and are not prepared for the amount of animals we have on our roads,” he said. “If you ever hit an elk or a deer, you’ll probably start driving more slowly.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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