Driver faces DUI, vehicular homicide charges in fatality near Rifle

Alex Zorn
Citizen Telegram
A photo of the Johnson family around Christmas time, via the Go Fund Me page. From left, Baylee, Aimee, Trent and Rylan with the family dog.

A fatal rollover wreck in the early morning of Dec. 29 north of Rifle left two people dead, and the driver of the vehicle is facing charges, including drunken driving and vehicular homicide.

Trent Johnson, 41, was killed in the wreck just after midnight on the 29th along with Matthew Smith, 36, of Rifle. Johnson was the father of the standout Glenwood Springs High School volleyball player Baylee Johnson.

Johnson’s 10-year-old son, Rylan Johnson, also was seriously injured in the crash and flown to Denver for treatment. He was expected to be released this week, according to those close to the family.

The driver of the vehicle, Cody Christopher, 40, also was taken to Grand River Hospital in Rifle with minor injuries. Johnson and Smith were both pronounced dead at the scene on Puma Paw Ranch Road, Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire said.

Meanwhile, Christopher has been arrested on charges of vehicular homicide and assault, DUI and other charges stemming from the accident.

Christopher appeared in Garfield District Court for an advisement hearing Tuesday afternoon. Bond was set at $50,000. He has since posted bond and is due back in court Jan. 10.

The Johnsons, along with the two family friends, were reportedly headed out on a hunting trip when the crash occurred on the private ranch road. The road is an extension of Garfield County Road 219, in a remote area northwest of Rifle Gap Reservoir near the Rifle Correctional Facility.

Johnson and the other passenger were ejected from the vehicle. None of the occupants in the 2003 Ford Excursion were wearing seat belts, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

According to State Patrol reports, the vehicle went over an embankment while traveling north on the ranch road and rolled nearly two full turns, ejecting both Johnson and Smith.

According to an affidavit filed with the court, Christopher allegedly admitted to consuming two beers prior to the crash.

When State Patrol Trooper K. Jenkins arrived on scene he noted there were several beer cans in and around the vehicle, both opened and unopened, according to the affidavit.

Following the loss of Trent, the Johnson family is in need of some help to cover medical expenses. Glenwood Springs head volleyball coach Kehau Rust has created a GoFundMe page to help support the Johnsons. As of Tuesday evening, the campaign had raised more than $10,000.

To help support the Johnson family, visit, or contact Rust at Donations can also be made to the GoFundMe account through the Glenwood Springs High School volleyball team’s official Facebook page.

Post Independent Sports Editor Josh Carney contributed to this report.