Basalt police intercept driver heading wrong way on Highway 82 | AspenTimes.com

Basalt police intercept driver heading wrong way on Highway 82

Following a summer in which two people were killed in head-on collisions in the midvalley by alleged wrong-way drivers, a Basalt officer recently intercepted a vehicle going east in the westbound lanes of Highway 82 and potentially prevented a crash, a police report said.

Jose Guadalupe Vasquez-Tapia, 46, of Lazy Glen, was observed by two police officers allegedly going eastbound on the westbound lanes of Highway 82 at mile marker 24, just east of Two Rivers Road, the report said. The officers were checking an abandoned vehicle at the side of the road at the time. The incident occurred at 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 20.

One of the officers jumped in his car and pulled parallel to Vasquez-Tapia on Highway 82, the report said. The officer turned on his emergency lights and turned on his siren a couple of times before he was able to get the motorist to pull into the eastbound lanes and pull over, the report said.

Vasquez-Tapia allegedly told the officer he was going to work. He was unable to produce a U.S. driver's license but had a Mexican passport, the report said. The officer allegedly detected a smell of alcohol, but Vasquez-Tapia refused to take a roadside sobriety test. He requested a chemical test of his blood-alcohol concentration, the report said.

“The number of incidences is definitely concerning.”
Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott

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Vasquez-Tapia received a summons for disobeying lane usage, careless driving, driving without a valid driver's license and suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was placed under protective custody at the Pitkin County Jail, the report said.

About half and hour later on the same morning, Basalt police received a report of an allegedly drunk driver who swerved into the wrong travel lane of a midvalley frontage road.

At 2:03 a.m., an officer was called to the western end of Two River Road for a report of an eastbound vehicle allegedly traveling in the wrong traffic lane. The reporting party was able to provide a license plate. The officer found the 1995 Toyota 4Runner on Homestead Drive. Arturo Navarette-Portillo, 45, of Basalt, was allegedly passed out inside the vehicle and was slow to respond when contacted by the officer, the police report said. He allegedly nearly fell over when he exited the vehicle and he declined to take a roadside test or any type of test for his alcohol concentration, the report said. He was taken into custody and issued a summons for failing to present proof of insurance and suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was released to a sober friend, the report said.

The two incidents followed tragic accidents in July and August where head-on collisions claimed two lives in the midvalley on Highway 82.

Jose Lewis Castro Lainez, 38, no address available, was killed July 5 when his eastbound vehicle crossed into the westbound lanes and struck another vehicle. Lainez died at the scene.

On Aug. 22, John Walls, 88, of Carbondale was heading eastbound on Highway 82 at Emma when he allegedly crossed into the westbound lane and struck a motorcycle head-on. The motorcycle driver, Patrick Dunn, 53, of Basalt, was killed instantly.

On that same day in the Crystal Valley, Meleyna Kistner, 21, of Naperville, Ill., was killed when her car was struck by a vehicle driven by Christine Tinner, 46, of Basalt, who allegedly crossed over into the wrong lane of Highway 133.

Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott said it was "lucky" that neither of the Sept. 20 incidents of wrong-way drivers resulted in collisions. "The number of incidences is definitely concerning," he said.

Knott said the incidents reinforce the need for motorists to always drive defensive and be alert of activity ahead of them.

scondon@aspentimes.com