Off-duty Vail firefighter in stable condition after being hit by car on I-70

Scott Miller
Vail Daily

EAGLE-VAIL — An off-duty Vail Fire Department lieutenant suffered serious injuries when he was struck after he apparently got out of his car to lend a hand during Friday morning’s traffic accidents along eastbound Interstate 70.

The firefighter, Lt. Scott Bridges, 45, was reported at midday to be in stable condition at Vail Health Hospital.

It appears he was struck by another vehicle when he stopped to help, Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak said.

Bridges suffered facial and head injuries. In addition to Bridges, three other people were transported to the hospital.

Snowy conditions create havoc

The initial accident at which Bridges stopped triggered other accidents; several vehicles ultimately became involved.

Eastbound traffic was rerouted to U.S. Highway 6 during the roughly two hours the interstate was closed. One motorist reported that it took roughly 30 minutes to drive from the Edwards Interfaith Chapel to the entrance to Arrowhead while Interstate 70 was closed.

Roads were slick throughout the Vail Valley on Friday morning. Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jessie Porter said a slide-off accident briefly closed Cooley Mesa Road in Gypsum — the road that runs past the Eagle County Regional Airport. Porter said the road was closed so a tow truck could recover the vehicle that had slid off the slick road.

And just 20 minutes after I-70 was reopened in Eagle-Vail, the eastbound lanes over Vail Pass were closed for roughly two hours. That closure caused traffic tie-ups for those heading into Vail for the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.

‘It hits a lot closer to home’

The Eagle-Vail incident was a reminder of the importance of slowing down during winter driving conditions.

“Too often we see accidents occur because motorists do not slow down during inclement weather,” Novak said. “We are thankful (Bridges) was not more seriously injured. We want to recognize his selfless actions in helping others.”

Tracy LeClair, the public information officer for the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said any injury to a fellow first responder affects everyone in those services.

“It’s more than just a job, it’s a family,” LeClair said. “It’s the same reaction as if it was one of your own family. It hits a lot closer to home.”

And a number of emergency responders in other parts of Colorado have had some very close calls recently.

‘Slow down, pay attention’

Trooper Tim Schaefer, public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol, noted four troopers in four consecutive days in February were involved in accidents while stopped for various traffic incidents.

“We’re asking people to be cautious,” Schaefer said. “Slow down, pay attention.”

He added, Colorado law requires motorists to move over for emergency vehicles. If drivers can’t move into another lane, the law requires motorists to slow to no more than 15 mph.

Like all of us, first responders want to go home at the end of the day. But those jobs are inherently more dangerous. But, LeClair said, first responders accept the risks.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a calling,” LeClair said. “We want to help people. That’s what (Bridges) was trying to do.”

Agencies responding to the Eagle-Vail accidents included the Eagle River Fire Protection District, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Colorado State Patrol and Vail Public Safety Communication Center.

Randy Wyrick contributed to this story.


Bar Talk: Barraquito

On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.

See more