Hwy. 82 double fatality has DA’s attention
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A truck driver involved in a Jan. 8 crash that killed two people on Highway 82 likely will face tougher charges in another court after charges against him in traffic court were dismissed this week.
Trucker Mark Chamness and the company he was working for, Davidson Industries Inc., also have been sued by the survivor of the crash.
Chamness was attempting to pull a mobile office across Highway 82, near Catherine Store, shortly before dawn Jan. 8. He was hauling the trailer to Buttermilk for use at the Winter X Games, authorities said at the time.
Chamness pulled out of a private driveway on the north side of the highway and stopped in an intersection while attempting to turn left, or east, stated the accident report by the Colorado State Patrol. The trailer blocked the two westbound lanes.
A Kia Sophia with three occupants slammed into the trailer. The two people in the front of the car, driver Elizeo Trinidad, 21, and Noemy Ramos, 23, were killed. The back-seat passenger, Julio Hernandez Mendoza, was critically injured.
Chamness was issued tickets for suspicion of careless driving causing death, careless driving causing bodily injury, stopping in an intersection when prohibited and violating a permit by operating during the hours of darkness.
The district attorney’s office said in January that the four citations issued by the state patrol were proper in the case and that no felony charges would be filed.
The district attorney’s outlook has since changed.
Those charges were dismissed this week in Garfield County Court in Glenwood Springs. The case record indicates charges will be refiled against Chamness.
That’s also the impression of Chamness’ attorney, Thomas Silverman of Glenwood Springs. He said he anticipates there will be new, tougher charges in Garfield County District Court.
“We have not reached a plea agreement and at this point no offer has been made,” Silverman said.
District Attorney Martin Beeson didn’t return calls Thursday or Friday seeking comment on the case.
Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit is progressing in the case, independent of the criminal proceedings. Mendoza, through his guardian, Asuncion Hernandez Davila, filed a lawsuit earlier this spring seeking damages from Chamness and Davidson Industries. The lawsuit was filed in Adams County, where the trucking firm is located.
The lawsuit contends that Chamness failed to have his vehicle under control in a way to avoid the collision and that he took the right-of-way from the other vehicle. Mendoza’s suit also contends that Chamness was out of compliance with his permit and that the trailer he was pulling was not property lit.
The state trooper who investigated the crash said a permit issued by the Colorado Department of Transportation only allowed the oversized mobile offices to be hauled during daylight hours. The trooper also found that the trailer lacked lights. He said it was impossible for the driver of the Kia to spot the trailer and react in time to avoid a collision in the pre-dawn darkness.
The lawsuit indicated Mendoza suffered permanent injuries in the crash, including injuries to his brain and face, and he will need ongoing health care. Mendoza, a former concrete worker, is now under the care of his father in El Jebel.
Mendoza is seeking compensatory damages and special damages in amounts to be determined, along with interest and legal fees. The lawsuit was filed on his behalf by Sander Karp of Glenwood Springs.
The attorney for Chamness and Davidson Industries filed a motion for a change of venue. The defendants want the case heard in Garfield County. Their motion indicated that Mendoza received medical care in excess of $250,000 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction after the crash.
There has been no decision on the motion to change venue.
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