Good Samaritan pulls woman from Fryingpan after accident

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Melissa Garcia, 23, of Glenwood Springs is helped by Basalt Fire and Rescue as her Nissan Pathfinder rests upside down in the Frying Pan River a mile and a half up river from downtown Basalt Friday morning February 14, 2003. Colorado State Patrolman trooper Jess Robinson said Garcia told him she lost control of her vehicle on a slick section of the road. Nick Saucier photo.

A Glenwood Springs woman escaped from an uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening situation Friday when her truck flipped into the Fryingpan River and a passer-by helped her out.

Melissa Garcia, 23, of Glenwood Springs, flipped into the river after she missed a left curve about 1.5 miles up Fryingpan Road from the Basalt Barber Shop, according to Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jess Robinson. Garcia was heading east, or upvalley, when the accident occurred at 8:35 a.m.

Garcia said she lost control on a slick section of the road, Robinson said. Her Nissan Pathfinder traveled about 80 feet along a pullout and wide shoulder before tumbling over an embankment. The SUV continued for another 88 feet before it struck a couple of massive tree trunks on the riverbank.

Garcia’s truck then rolled and landed partially in the river on its top. Police and rescue workers scrambled to the scene when the initial call came out that a woman was trapped in her vehicle in the river.

Quick-acting motorists helped pull Garcia from the wreckage. John Seamons, a resident of Seven Castles, was driving downvalley when a man and woman flagged him down. He immediately scrambled down the embankment to the vehicle to help Garcia. He found her out of the vehicle, but entangled in the seat belt.

“She was completely out, kind of squatting down with the seat belt around her waist,” said Seamons.

He said Garcia was calm and had apparently managed to kick out the driver’s side window, then gotten out of the Pathfinder. Seamons said he reached into the vehicle to try to free the seat belt. Instead, he cut his arm near his elbow.

He called to the people on the bank to get him a knife or scissors so he could free Garcia.

“Once I got the belt cut, I had a dilemma because you’re not supposed to move someone who’s been in an accident,” he said.

But since Garcia was wet from squatting in the Fryingpan River, he thought it best to get her repositioned. Luckily there was a large rock nearby where she could rest, he said. Emergency response personnel were on the scene seconds later and got her into an ambulance.

Seamons downplayed his role. He said rescuers would have gotten to Garcia within a minute of so if he hadn’t acted. Basalt community safety officer David Dushkin, the first cop on the scene, credited Seamons with quick thinking. He said Seamons had pulled Garcia to safety by the time he arrived on the scene.

Seamons cut his elbow on glass when he reached into the vehicle. He ended up going to the hospital and receiving stitches and a $700 bill. He hopes to be reimbursed by insurance, but said he’ll absorb the cost if need be.

Garcia was taken by ambulance to Valley View Hospital for various aches and pains, and was treated and released, according to Robinson.

The Pathfinder kept running after the accident and was leaking gas and oil into the Fryingpan River, officials said. A member of the Basalt rescue unit donned a wetsuit to climb into the vehicle and turn off the ignition. The vehicle was towed a short time later.

Rescue and police officials were amazed that Garcia avoided injury.

She didn’t avoid citations. Robinson said she was ticketed for careless driving and for not having a Colorado driver’s license. Garcia had a license from Mexico.

She was also ticketed for failure to present evidence of insurance, although she insisted she does have it. She can get out of that ticket if she proves she has insurance.

Seamons said his family refers to that stretch of road as the “Dead Man Curve” because it’s easy to miss. He said it’s a stretch of the road in Eagle County that really deserves a guardrail.

Seamons said the episode also taught him to purchase a tool for the car that has one end designed to break out a window and another for cutting materials, like a seat belt. If ever it was needed it was Friday, he said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is]


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