Progress reported in removing two Jeeps from upper Crystal River
The owners of two Jeeps that rolled into the headwaters of the Crystal River on July 2 made progress starting last weekend in getting them out, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Aspen District Ranger Karen Schroyer said the owner of one of the vehicles told her Monday that both vehicles were out of the water. At the time she talked to the man, one vehicle had been winched up to about 10 feet below Forest Road 315, which travels between Crystal and Lead King Basin.
The other Jeep had been removed from the water but was still deep in the gully at that time, Schroyer said. The vehicles rolled an estimated 130 feet into the North Fork of the Crystal River. The site is about 1.5 miles north of the town of Crystal.
According to Schroyer, the vehicle owner she spoke to said he and his brother, the owner of the other vehicle, were working with a four-wheel-drive club to extricate the vehicles. She believed the club was based in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Jeep owners are from the Denver area.
The Forest Service will send a worker to the site today to observe the recovery operation. If the owners successfully remove the Jeeps from the river drainage and haul them out of the White River National Forest without further environmental damage, the agency will not cite them, Schroyer said. The priority has always been getting the mess cleaned up, she said.
The eldest brother spoke to The Aspen Times last week but didn’t want to be quoted or identified. He insisted that he and his brother never intended to abandon their vehicles, but were working on a plan to remove the vehicles from the forest. He couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. Cellphone service is mostly nonexistent in the Marble, Crystal and Lead King Basin area.
Forest Service officials expressed impatience last week after not hearing from the Jeep owners more than three weeks after the July 2 incident. They said they were getting messages of concern from conservation groups and individuals.
The accident occurred at or shortly before 8 p.m. on the Saturday of the July Fourth weekend. The brothers and friends were camping in the Lead King Basin area and were returning to camp when they encountered a disabled vehicle in the rough road. The younger of the two brothers tried to squeeze his Jeep past the disabled vehicle, but the steep embankment broke off, leaving the left rear tire of the Jeep hanging off the roadway. All parties got out of both Jeeps and used a come-along tool to try to get the endangered vehicle back onto the road. The older brother got into his brother’s Jeep and tried to guide it back onto the road.
The Jeep fell off the road and into the river gorge during the maneuver, pulling the other Jeep with it. The Denver man survived despite taking a wild ride. The Jeep rolled an unknown number of times before landing in the river.
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