Local woman dies after her car careens off pass | AspenTimes.com

Local woman dies after her car careens off pass

Joel Stonington
Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

Longtime Aspen resident Jane Stapleton died Saturday after driving off the side of Highway 82 about one mile past the Independence Pass closure gate. She was 64.”One of the funniest women in this valley, and so smart,” Aspen Times’ office manager Dottie Wolcott said of her friend. “She’s probably one of the most quick-witted people I’ve ever known. She was a delight. She always made everyone laugh.”Witnesses to the accident said Stapleton did not attempt to stop; there were no skid marks where the car went off the road. Those who knew Stapleton said she was a heavy smoker and wondered if a coughing fit caused the accident.

“It just went straight off – no brakes, no nothing,” said Aspen resident Jason Upper, who was two cars behind Stapleton’s when it went off the road. “There was no excessive speed; it was as if she was just not paying attention.”Brad Ungler and Andrew Rice, both of Basalt, were in the car directly behind Stapleton and confirmed that account. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Ungler. “We could see it go into the air and we went around the turn and said, ‘Oh my God, what did we just see?'”The accident occurred at approximately 11 a.m. on a left-curving turn near milepost 48; a sign for the turn and a gravel turnoff mark the spot where Stapleton’s car went off the road.According to the Colorado State Patrol, Stapleton’s 2005 silver Volkswagon Beetle veered off the right side of the road onto the shoulder and then down a “very steep embankment.”

Witnesses added that the car flew roughly 100 feet in the air, clearing a stand of trees before rolling down the rocky slope, where it came to rest on its roof. “We ran down there and tried to pry the door open,” said Upper, who hiked down to Stapleton’s car with Unger while Rice called for help. “She was conscious, just moaning.”He said the car was heavily damaged and they had to wait for rescue crews to actually get Stapleton out of the car.

Members of the Aspen Police Department, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and Aspen Volunteer Fire Department responded, using a fire truck, ropes and pulleys for the rescue.Stapleton was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital at around 12:45 p.m. and pronounced dead at approximately 2:25 p.m., according to the Colorado State Patrol.Stapleton lived in Aspen for more than 30 years and most recently was executive secretary to Eric Calderon, general manager of The Little Nell. “She was just his right-hand person for years, helped run The Little Nell basically,” said Wolcott. Calderon could not be reached for comment Saturday, nor would hotel staffers talk with the media.

She also served as board secretary of the Red Butte Cemetery for more than 20 years. “She was real salt of the earth, said it like it was … brilliant, great mind, avid reader, just a lady with a lot of amazing qualities,” said Peter Helburn, a friend of Stapleton’s for more than 20 years. “A lot of wisdom and a great mind.”Jane Stapleton is survived by two daughters, Samantha and Kelly, both from a previous marriage to Don Neal Stapleton. Joel Stonington’s e-mail is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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