One dead in high-speed crash
Aspen Times Staff Writer
An El Jebel man was killed and two other men were hospitalized in critical condition after a high-speed collision on Highway 82 Monday afternoon.
Angel Pacheco Pineda, 24, of El Jebel died instantly when his red Audi was T-boned and ripped in two by a truck coming upvalley. The accident happened just west of the entrance to the Pitkin County Landfill around 1 p.m. State troopers said a combination of road rage and vehicles racing up to 100 mph led to the crash.
The driver and owner of the truck, El Jebel resident Loren Cunningham, 29, was airlifted to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver, where he was in critical condition last night with multiple injuries, including a closed head injury. His passenger, Eric Norton, 30, remains in critical to serious condition with similar injuries at Aspen Valley Hospital, troopers said.
Both men were extricated from the Ford pickup they were in by Aspen firefighters. Air bags deployed, and both men were wearing seat belts.
According to the state patrol, Pacheco Pineda lost control of his car while speeding down the highway, traveling into the upvalley lanes where he collided with the truck.
Witnesses told troopers the crash happened when Pacheco Pineda was racing another car. Trooper Brian Koch, an accident reconstruction technician, said the Audi passed another car in a turning lane just after coming around the cement barriers on the highway near the landfill.
Losing control of his vehicle, Pacheco Pineda swerved into oncoming traffic, leaving “yaw marks” on the road when his car began to spin around. Troopers determined that the Audi was traveling close to 100 mph when the driver lost control, and 90 mph when it struck Cunningham’s truck.
Pacheco Pineda was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt.
The other car that may have been racing the Audi is described as an older model dark-colored car, possibly a Toyota sedan, with Colorado license plates. Witnesses described two boys in the car, wearing baseball caps.
Police would like information from that driver as part of their investigation. The situation was “somewhere between road rage and road racing,” said Trooper Jess Robinson.
“We’d like to find out if there was another circumstance involved: if they knew each other, or if it was a road-rage situation. The witness can be anonymous, if they like,” Koch said.
Anyone with information about the other car is asked to call the Colorado State Patrol’s Glenwood Springs office at 945-6198. Speed, alcohol and drugs are all suspected as causes of the crash, Koch said.
Aspen resident Stephane Peltier was going downvalley with his father at the time. He described a red Audi that passed them at what he said was close to 100 mph, maybe faster. A few seconds later the car lost control, and he said he saw an explosion of dust and smoke.
“I immediately told my dad to turn around,” he said. As the second person on the scene, Peltier and another witness helped put out a fire in the front end of the Audi with a fire extinguisher he was handed.
The twisted halves of the Audi were in the grass alongside the highway approximately 80 feet apart, and the car’s roof laid on the pavement.
The Audi’s front half sheared off the sign for the landfill, and the sign was by the side of the road.
A child’s seat was also found next to the road. Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters searched the area to make sure no one else was in the Audi. Robinson said Pacheco Pineda had a young child, and his wife is pregnant.
The Ford truck was smashed and spun around during the crash, splattering the white paint it was carrying on the side of the highway.
“I’ve never seen any crash that has cut a car in half,” Trooper Robinson said. “Working that area I’ve seen cars take the `dump curve’ at 80 to 85 mph, but 100 mph is flat-out reckless.”
Slowing down drivers on Highway 82 has always been a priority, troopers said.
“We try to slow people down by enforcement, and we’re asked to come up here to address aggressive driving,” Koch said. “We feel we’re making a difference, but we can’t get them all. Road rage is a big problem here.”
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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