Disaster averted in odd crash near Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

BASALT – Basalt firefighters and police temporarily closed part of Highway 82 on Tuesday afternoon after a van crossed four traffic lanes, sheared off a metal road sign, bounced off cottonwood trees and reduced a power pole to “toothpicks.”

The two eastbound lanes were closed for two hours shortly after 4 p.m. while Holy Cross Energy stabilized the power pole and removed the risk of the power lines falling, authorities said. The single-vehicle accident occurred just upvalley from the intersection of Highway 82 and the east end of Two Rivers Road.

“Until Holy Cross got on scene, we played it safe,” said Basalt Fire Department Deputy Chief Jerry Peetz.

A Holy Cross crew stabilized the pole with a clamp applied from a boom truck. The pole was replaced during a snow squall Wednesday morning.

Traffic kept flowing Tuesday because it was diverted into the center turn lane, Peetz said. The westbound lanes weren’t affected by the closure.

A witness to the accident said he was driving west shortly before 4 p.m. when he saw a van in front of him veer out of the right-hand westbound lane. The vehicles crossed the left westbound lane, the center turn lane and the two eastbound lanes before striking the sign, trees and pole on the south side of the highway. The witness said he never saw brake lights go on and couldn’t figure out why the van driver swerved.

The Basalt Police Department verified that the van was westbound and crossed the eastbound lanes. The description from the first officers on the scene made it sound like it was fortunate that the van didn’t collide with other vehicles, Basalt police Chief Greg Knott said.

Peetz said the driver of the van was out of the vehicle when an ambulance crew and firefighters arrived shortly after the accident. The male driver was treated for injuries and released. He declined transport to a hospital.

Peetz said another firefighter told him the power pole was reduced to toothpicks after the van hit it. The witness said the left side of the van was demolished from hitting obstacles. He said he was surprised that the driver was able to crawl out the back of the vehicle. The driver was the sole occupant.

The Colorado State Patrol investigated the accident. No trooper was available Wednesday to answer why the van driver crossed four lanes before the collisions.


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