Hit-and-run driver leaves runner for dead
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Paul Driskill almost died doing what he loves – running.The Roaring Fork Valley running legend was hit and left for dead during his run Saturday morning. He’s completed 13- to 16-mile runs or more every day for more than 30 years. This run ended in catastrophe, but family members expect him to recover.One of the first things he asked after being flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, losing his pulse and being resuscitated, and having doctors at first say he had no brain activity at all was: “Did I make my 16 miles?”That was after he was able to respond to people, recognize his family and talk with doctors about pain and what he remembers. “He’s just glad that his legs are OK,” said his daughter, Kim Stallome, via telephone outside the hospital.Driskill, 70, has never missed his daily run for at least 30 years, she said. He often runs with shorts bearing a Colorado flag and socks on his hands for warmth.”Paul runs constantly,” said Bob Willey, who’s known Driskill through the running and education communities for more than two decades. “He’s the Energizer Bunny of the racing world. He keeps going and going and going.”
Police have identified no suspects in what they have described as a hit-and-run.Assistant city engineer Steve Vanderleest found Driskill around 5:30 a.m. near the Rosebud Cemetery on old Grand Avenue when he was driving out of town. He saw someone on the side of the road, pulled over, called 911 and put a blanket over Driskill until authorities arrived, Vanderleest said. He noticed that Driskill’s headband and one of his shoes was knocked off, and a pool of blood had formed under his head.”As soon as I saw his Colorado running shorts I knew who it was,” Vanderleest said. “I just really wasn’t thinking. I just dialed 911 and did what I could to help. … Our thoughts and prayers are with him, for sure.”Family members at the hospital wonder how someone could drive off after hitting Driskill.”They don’t know that he didn’t die,” Stallome said. “How horrific that he was lying there alone, and nobody was there that could help him.””Whoever hit him just left him there to die,” said his granddaughter, Rebecca Cossins. “The thought of it makes me ill. I can’t even imagine doing that to somebody.”Driskill was still in an intensive care unit Monday afternoon, Cossins said.
“He’s not really mobile or anything yet,” she said. “His speech and language are getting better. It looks like he’ll pull through it, but he’s going to have a lot of work to do.”Stallome and Cossins said he suffered injuries including a broken neck, injured spine, bleeding in his brain, broken ribs and a broken sternum, a gash to his jugular vein, stitches all over his face and “unbelievable” road rash.”He doesn’t look like the same person,” she said. “There’s no promises, but they’re feeling like it’s a pretty good chance that he’ll recover.”Cossins said it was ironic that doctors said his great physical condition caused by running probably allowed him to survive the impact, but if he wasn’t out running, he probably wouldn’t have been hit in the first place.”It was the worst day of my life,” she said. “It’s horrible to hear that somebody left him on the side of the road and that he was left there alone and helpless like a dog.”I was totally hysterical,” Cossins said.It’s too early to tell if he’ll be able to run again, but Cossins said he would be devastated if he can’t. Around 15 family members arrived from as far as Michigan and Florida to support Driskill.
Cossins said Driskill remembers leaving for his run, but doesn’t remember anything further.Driskill worked as a teacher for more than 30 years at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. Mike Vidakovich taught with him there for about 10 years and remembers Driskill running after school and during lunch while wearing his white collared shirt, black slacks and dress shoes during the early 1970s when Vidakovich was a student at GSES, he said.”You won’t find a nicer guy or more of a heart of gold than Paul and [his wife], Jeannie,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul.”Willey said, “I pray for his recovery. Running means everything to him, and it would be very hard if he could not run again.”The Paul Driskill Courage and Commitment Award from the Sequoia Glen 5K run honors Driskill.”It’s because Paul’s the epitome of courage and commitment to the running sport,” Willey said. “Thirteen miles a day for 35 years.”Driskill participated in about 26 Strawberry Shortcut 10K and 5K runs, and has never missed a Turkey Day 5K, Willey said.”His commitment to the sport of running is as amazing as I’ve ever seen in anyone,” Vidakovich said.
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.