Investigation continues into accident involving BHS team
A multivehicle accident on Interstate 70 Friday afternoon involving a school bus carrying the Basalt High School girls soccer team remains under investigation.
The accident occurred around 3:20 p.m. when an eastbound Ford Taurus driven by 71-year-old James Monk, of Avon, Fla., crossed the median near Genesee and collided head-on with a westbound GMC pickup driven by Roger Bielz, 39, of Empire, Colo.
The impact of the collision knocked the pickup backward and into the side of the Basalt bus, said Colorado State Patrol trooper Eric Wynn.
No one on the bus, which had 16 girls, two coaches and the driver inside, was seriously injured, though several girls were treated for minor cuts from broken glass. Senior Shannon Hutton was later taken to an area hospital due to head and neck pain. She was treated and released.
The team was returning to Basalt following a 1-0 loss to Denver Christian in he Class 3A state semifinals in Golden Thursday night.
Monk and Bielz, who were both traveling alone, suffered serious injuries and were taken to St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver. Wynn said both men remain in serious condition.
Basalt coach Chris Woods said a paramedic told him Monk appeared to have suffered from a stroke, leading to the accident. Wynn could not confirm that was the case.
Woods, who watched the accident unfold in front of his eyes, said it happened “in slow motion, ‘Matrix’ style,” adding it was a miracle nobody on the bus was seriously injured.
He said he saw the Taurus come across the median and launch, untouched, over the front end of an SUV before striking the pickup. Woods said the pickup, which was hit in the lower front end, “flipped onto its roof in the air and hit the bus.”
When the pickup hit the bus, “it was like a bomb went off,” he said.
The pickup struck the upper left side of the bus and smashed three windows, where seniors Maria Jacobsen, Rochelle Moebius and Hutton were seated.
“[But] they were all laying down,” Woods said. “If they were sitting up, it would have been a totally different story.
“Someone was definitely looking out for us.”
Woods said it then became “pitch black” from dirt and debris, and he thought to himself, “This is going to get a lot worse.”
When the bus came to a stop, Woods emerged and began helping the girls out when he saw “all these guys running down the road.”
According to Woods, the group pulled Bielz out of his truck shortly before it “exploded.”
“It was surreal, like something out of a movie,” he added.
Wynn said the interstate was completely shut down for a short time after the accident to allow a helicopter to land and pick up Monk. Traffic was backed up eight to 12 miles, and even after the highway reopened delays persisted until 6 p.m.
While the team was disappointed with the loss to Denver Christian, Woods said the accident put everything in perspective.
“This season was probably one of the best for Basalt,” he said. “We’re so lucky to have had such a great season and to have everyone all right.
“There are so many little things we’re just so grateful for – there’s nothing like a bus crash to bring people together.”
On a lighter note, Woods said a hermit crab belonging to freshman Bailey Holmes finally came out of its shell after the accident.
“She said it was because of the crash,” he laughed.
Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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