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News in Brief

PITKIN COUNTY ” A state trooper said a driver who allegedly eluded a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy and flew off Highway 82 at more than 100 mph Saturday night is lucky to be alive.

The snow likely cushioned the crash and saved a life, said Trooper Eric Gentry.

Pitkin County Deputy Brady Jax reported spotting Robert Leland, 36, of Aspen driving at high speed in the area of Brush Creek and Highway 82. There, Jax saw Leland’s Chevy Suburban cross over the median into oncoming traffic.

The deputy turned on his lights and allegedly pursued the vehicle until high speed caused Jax to slow down and lose it. Soon thereafter, the deputy saw tire tracks going off the road.

The Colorado State Patrol said Leland’s Suburban left the road going more than 100 mph and that the vehicle traveled 131 feet in the air. There was one end-to-end roll and two side-to-side rolls before the car came to a stop.

“If it had been summertime, it would have been a lot worse crash,” Gentry said. “There was about 8 to 12 inches of snow. That really saved his tail as far as absorbing some of the energy from the crash. He had a seat belt on, so that made a difference, too.”

Leland was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital where he was listed in stable condition Sunday afternoon. The hospital could not release the extent of Leland’s injuries.

“It looked like he had been in a high-speed crash,” said State Trooper Robert Varner. “There was definitely blood and swelling.”

Varner said Leland appeared intoxicated enough that he will face a DUI charge. The State Patrol also is charging Leland with reckless driving. Pitkin County also probably will charge Leland with vehicular eluding, a sheriff’s deputy said.

BEAVER CREEK ” Byron Chafin has skied the Beaver Creek backcountry several times, but never the route on which he and his friend made a wrong turn Saturday afternoon.

The Beaver Creek Ski Patrol found Byron, a former resident of Avon, and Alec Davis on Saturday night after the two Virginia men hiked several hours in the backcountry.

“Instead of making the wise decision and turning around, … we decided to go for it,” said Chafin, who entered the backcountry from the Bald Spot near Chair 8 with Davis.

Ski Patrol found Davis, 38, and Chafin, 39, near Beaver Lake and brought the men down in a snowcat, Chafin said.

Chafin, of Richmond, Va., said the men told Alec’s wife at lunch that they would ski the backcountry. Chafin’s wife called Ski Patrol around 7:30 p.m. when she did not hear from the men, he said.

“Ski Patrol did a great job,” Chafin said.

Addy McCord, director for Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, said nine patrollers searched in three different directions for the men and found the men around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Chafin fell through a frozen creek upon which the men were skiing, he said. The water rose to his knee and he lost a ski, he said.

He got frostbite on both feet, he said.

The men’s cell phones did not get service along the creek, but Davis’ phone regained service near Beaver Lake and they called ski patrol, Chafin said. (Vail Daily)

EUGENE, Ore. ” Two ecoterrorists who pleaded guilty to setting fire to buildings on Vail Mountain in 1998 are now sched­uled for sentencing hearings in May.

Chelsea Dawn Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Mey­erhoff were originally scheduled for sentencing in April. But on Friday in Eugene, Ore., U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken set sentencing hearings on May 22 for Meyerhoff and May 25 for Gerlach.

The two have pleaded guilty to some of the $20 mil­lion worth of arsons between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front known as the Family.

Prosecutors have recommended a 10-year prison sentence for Gerlach and 15 years and eight months for Meyerhoff.

Twelve people have pleaded guilty in the cases. The alleged leader of the group, William C. Rodgers, killed himself in jail in Arizona in December 2005. (Rocky Mountain News)

GEORGETOWN, Colo. ( AP) ” A 53-year-old man who died after getting caught in an avalanche near Echo Lake was identified Sunday as Steven Bloom of Long­mont.

Bloom had fallen about 50 yards off Colorado High­way 5 as he and a friend from the Loveland area were snowshoeing and skiing Saturday, not long before the avalanche hit, Clear Creek County sheriff’s officials said.

The slide ran about 700 vertical feet and was 200 feet wide at its crown, although it narrowed to a pile about 50 feet wide, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said.

Bloom was buried up to his neck but was pro­nounced dead at the scene after rescuers arrived. Sher­iff’s Lt. Rick Albers said the man had a cut on his head and shoulder injuries, but he did not know what may have led to the man’s death.

Albers expected there would be an autopsy today or Tuesday.


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