Passengers suing mountain shuttle |

Passengers suing mountain shuttle

Steve Lynn
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Two passengers injured in the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle crash have filed a lawsuit against the company and the driver, who has returned to Spain, said attorney Russell Hatten.

Meanwhile, the condition of passenger James Griggs ” the most seriously injured when the van crashed into a snowplow that had parked near Georgetown to alert motorists that I-70 was closed ” has improved to serious, said Bev Lilly, spokeswoman for St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver.

Sebastian Lopez, the 28-year-old driver for the Edwards-based shuttle service, is no longer with the company and has returned to his home country, said Jay Ufer, chief executive of Colorado Mountain Express.

Lopez left because his visa was set to expire, Ufer said.

Hatten’s clients, Jason Laforte and Thomas Gruber, have filed a lawsuit contending negligence against Lopez and East West Resort Transportation LLC, Colorado Mountain Express’s parent company, Hatten said.

Lopez was driving more than 75 mph when some passengers warned him to slow down, Hatten said.

Lopez also ignored warnings such as cones on the highway, Hatten said.

Lopez told police he was driving 60 mph when he crashed into the snowplow, the Colorado State Patrol has said. Ten were injured in the crash, eight of whom were passengers in the van.

Laforte and Gruber suffered neck and back injuries and have yet to return to work, Hatten said.

The lawsuit does not specify how much money the men are seeking, he said.

“Until the injuries are more defined, we’re not even able to estimate what the value of the treatment will be in the future,” Hatten said.

The men filed the lawsuit early because they knew Lopez’s visa expired April 30. However, Lopez left for Spain and never received the lawsuit, so he did not have a chance to respond to it, Hatten said.

Various agencies continue to investigate the accident, Ufer said.

“One should expect in order to do this properly and thoroughly it’s going to take time,” Ufer said.

Ufer would not comment on whether Lopez’s absence would make it more difficult to defend the company’s case. Nor would Ufer comment on what his insurance company’s investigation has turned up so far.

“We’re still in the early part of the investigation,” he said.

Ufer has not been notified of any other lawsuits, he said.

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