Dozens hospitalized in bus crash on Highway 82

Rick Carroll and Ryan SlabaughThe Aspen Times Aspen, CO Colorado
Ryan Slabaugh/The Aspen TimesEmergency crews from the Snowmass Fire Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office discuss Friday's accident between a RFTA bus and tow truck that sent a number of bus riders to the hospital.

PITKIN COUNTY – Dozens of people were treated for injuries Friday after a tow truck slammed into a public bus at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. There were no fatalities.The driver of the D&D Professional Towing truck, Bailey Hall-Sanson, 21, faces the misdemeanor charge of careless driving causing bodily injury, the Colorado State Patrol said. The driver of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus, which was en route to Snowmass Village from the Brush Creek intercept lot, was not held liable, officials said.Bus passenger injuries ranged from minor to serious, but none were thought to be life-threatening, the patrol said. A passenger in the tow truck suffered moderate to serious injuries and was taken to the hospital as well, according to the patrol.The crash happened at approximately 10 a.m. The flatbed tow truck was traveling east toward Aspen, on Highway 82, when it entered the intersection on a red light. The bus entered the intersection on a green light and was struck on the right side by the truck, the state patrol said.Figures released by the state patrol and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office differ. The state patrol says 13 passengers were transported to Aspen Valley Hospital and nine were taken to the Snowmass Clinic. The sheriff’s office reported that 12 passengers were admitted to AVH, while the remaining 29 of 41 riders were taken to the clinic in Snowmass. It’s possible, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Alex Burchetta explained, that some of the people taken to the clinic were not treated for injuries. Neither driver received medical attention. In any case, some passengers on board the bus said it was apparent there was about to be a crash in the moments before the accident.”People on the bus knew it was coming,” said Bob Criss Jr., a Pittsburgh resident who was sitting toward the back of the bus with his father. “It wasn’t screams or shouts, but they just said ‘oh no’ when they saw the truck that was going to hit us.”Said Bob Criss Sr.: “The bus driver was driving slow and seemed to be driving very cautiously. It would surprise me if they end up finding him at fault.”Visibility was an issue for drivers Friday morning, as blowing snow and a low clouds covered the region.”From the information I received from RFTA personnel, there snow blowing hard in the upvalley direction and the visibility and ceiling was pretty low,” said RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship.Burchetta said authorities had gotten reports of snow stacking up in the hoods of traffic lights, obscuring the signals, in the area before the accident.The bus, which was built in 1998 or 1999, might be totaled, Blankenship said. “It’s significantly damaged,” he said. “We have questions about whether we’ll ever use it again.”Blankenship said it’s fortunate nobody was more severely hurt.”It’s a heavy bus, over 40,000 pounds and it’s reinforced in the front end … which helped minimize the damage,” he said. Blankenship was among the RFTA employees who visited some of the victims at AVH and the clinic. “We sent personnel to the Snowmass Clinic and Aspen Valley Hospital to offer whatever assistance we could,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of contact with passengers who were in the emergency room but we were there to let them know we were available.”In addition to the state patro and sheriff’s office, members of the Aspen, Basalt and Snowmass fire departments responded, along with personnel from the Aspen and Basalt police departments, and Aspen Ambulance. Officials with D&D Towing, based in Aspen, could not be reached for immediate comment Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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