DA to look into pedestrian death near Aspen
ASPEN – The Colorado State Patrol, which is leading the investigation of the death of a woman struck by a public bus early the morning of Jan. 1 near Aspen, hopes to have its accident report completed and forwarded to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office by the end of the week, a trooper said Wednesday.
The District Attorney’s Office’s role in the case, said prosecutor Arnold Mordkin, will “be to review the report and make a decision about what, if anything, will happen.”
Mordkin said that if criminal charges are filed, the primary basis of the decision will be on the report’s findings. State Trooper Graham Thorne, the lead investigator, has the authority to charge the driver as long as it’s not a felonious offense, which can only be filed by the District Attorney’s Offense. But Thorne said he would leave the decision to file any charges, be they misdemeanors or lesser offenses, up to prosecutors.
In the meantime, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging the public to come forth with any information that could help explain how 29-year-old Joanie Marie Kocab made it from Basalt to the outskirts of Aspen – a stretch of roughly 20 miles on Highway 82 – the morning of the fatal accident.
She was killed as she walked in the eastbound bus lane just downvalley from the intersection of Highway 82 and Owl Creek Road. The Roaring Fork Transportation Agency bus that struck her was en route from Snowmass Village to Aspen.
Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Lumsden said clues are scant about how Kocab returned upvalley. She exited a RFTA bus in Basalt at 12:45 a.m. after getting into an argument with her fiance. She was wearing dark clothing at the time of her death, and her only personal belongings were her cell phone.
Lumsden said Kocab did not take either one of the two upvalley-bound buses after she disembarked the bus in Basalt, based on statements from the drivers of both buses. Neither of the two buses had cameras, so there’s no surveillance video to review, Lumsden said. Lumsden explained that the buses were both back-ups, and were employed that morning because the previous buses, which did have cameras, were taken out of service because of passengers throwing up on them that New Year’s Eve.
“The remaining question for [the sheriff’s department] is why she was where she was and how she got there,” Lumsden said. “We’re asking the public that if anybody gave her a ride from Basalt to Aspen to contact us.” The Sheriff’s Office’s phone number is 970-920-5300.
Lumsden said a passenger and driver of an Aspen-bound taxi reportedly believe they saw Kocab walking along the eastbound lane minutes before she was killed. But other than that, no other witnesses who saw Kocab between the time she exited the bus in Basalt and the time she was struck by another one have come forward, the deputy said.
Toxicology reports are expected to be completed within three or four weeks, Lumsden said. Trooper Thorne added that an inspection of the bus that struck Kocab showed that it had no mechanical failures or abnormalities.
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