Driver escapes serious injury in Snowmass Canyon
September 30, 2009
SNOWMASS CANYON – A woman was lucky to avoid serious injuries Tuesday when her car ran off the side of the road, avoided a head-on collision with a pile of boulders, then plunged down a 40-foot embankment in Snowmass Canyon, according to authorities.
The woman was traveling west, or downvalley, on Highway 82 when she went off the road at one of the few spots in the canyon where there isn’t a concrete barrier or metal guardrail. That spot is about one-quarter mile east of the Old Snowmass Conoco where there is a designated parking area for fishermen.
After exiting the highway, the woman’s car traveled parallel to the guardrail for a couple hundred feet, somehow avoiding rolling down the embankment. She was the sole occupant.
“I can’t believe she stayed on her wheels. I don’t know how she stayed upright,” said Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Joe Bauer.
The Volkswagen Jetta threaded a tight spot between the guardrail and a line of boulders before the driver’s luck ran out. The car traveled along a bench just below the highway level, then plunged down a steep embankment along the Roaring Fork River.
“It was near vertical. You couldn’t scramble down it,” said Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. A thick stand of trees prevented the car from continuing to the river.
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The accident occurred at about 1 p.m. The driver called 911 from inside her car. She was apparently disoriented and gave the impression to emergency dispatchers that she was along Snowmass Creek, Thompson said. “We had a little bit of trouble finding her.”
When the driver of the car heard sirens on the road above her, she started honking the horn, according to Bauer. She was eventually found in the car. She was trapped but didn’t have to be extricated. The red Jetta was difficult to spot at the bottom of the embankment, obscured by trees.
Rescuers had to perform what Thompson called a “low-angle uphaul” to get the patient up the steep embankment. Rescuers are prohibited by law from disclosing specific medical information or personal information of patients. The victim was described as a young female. She was taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.
“As far as her not being seriously hurt, it’s a miracle,” Bauer said.
The name, age and place of residence of the accident victim weren’t available Tuesday evening from the Colorado State Patrol trooper who investigated the accident.
The driver told authorities she was distracted while driving. “Supposedly a wasp was in the car,” Thompson said.