Legal battle shapes up in fatal accident on Highway 82 |

Legal battle shapes up in fatal accident on Highway 82

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A man who survived a car crash that killed two of his friends on Highway 82 in January is facing “ongoing significant injuries,” according to the Glenwood Springs attorney who was hired to represent the survivor and his family.

Julio Hernandez-Mendoza was in a coma for three weeks after the car he was riding in slammed into a mobile office that was being pulled across the highway, attorney Sandy Karp said. Hernandez-Mendoza remained in a hospital until late February.

Karp declined to disclose details of the man’s current medical condition. He remains in need of medical care, the attorney said.

An Eagle County court recently appointed Hernandez-Mendoza’s father as the man’s legal guardian. That suggests the crash victim is not capable of making decisions on his own, at this time. The father is from the El Jebel area.

Hernandez-Mendoza was riding in the back of a 2000 Kia Sephia that was headed downvalley before dawn on Jan. 8. The car collided with a truck that was hauling a mobile office to the ESPN Winter X Games at Buttermilk, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

The accident report said the truck pulled out of a private driveway on the north side of Highway 82 near Catherine Store, outside of Carbondale, and was trying to turn onto the eastbound or upvalley lanes. The truck was waiting for upvalley-bound traffic to clear and was blocking both downvalley lanes.

State Trooper Dennis Gibbons investigated the accident and told The Aspen Times that the trailer couldn’t be seen in the predawn light at 6:40 a.m. The mobile office didn’t have any lights on the side, as required, Gibbons said.

There was no sign that the Kia braked for the trailer. It was traveling at or near the posted speed limit of 65 mph, the accident report said. Driver Elizeo Trinidad, 21; and front-seat passenger Noemy Ramos, 23, died instantly. Hernandez-Mendoza was taken to Valley View Hospital then transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. None of the three were wearing seatbelts.

The state patrol had difficulty identifying the victims because they carried no driver’s licenses. Trinidad was buried in Mexico; Ramos was buried in El Salvador.

Mark Chamness, the driver of the Kenworth truck, received tickets from the state patrol on four alleged violations: 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 charges are misdemeanors.

Chamness’ attorney, Thomas Silverman of Glenwood Springs, said he couldn’t discuss the case.

Karp said his office still is investigating the accident, but he noted several potential acts of negligence by Chamness and the company he was driving for, Davidson Industries of Commerce City. The trailer blocked both downvalley lanes as the truck sat in an intersection waiting to turn, Karp said, citing the accident report as the source. There was no reflective tape or lights on the side of the trailer, the report said.

“There’s no way anybody could see it,” he said.

Karp said he will attempt to negotiate a settlement with attorneys for the driver and trucking firm. If that fails, he will file a claim for injuries, he said.

An attorney said to be representing Davidson Industries didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.

The family of the driver also has hired an attorney to investigate the crash. Douglas Diley of San Antonio, Texas, said he performs pro bono work for the Mexican consulate. He was contacted about the Roaring Fork Valley crash on behalf of Trinidad’s family, which is from a small, rural area in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Trinidad also has relatives in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.

Diley said he still was investigating the accident, so he couldn’t comment on it yet.

It’s unknown if Ramos’ survivors hired an attorney.