Quick thinking helps rescuers find Snowmass Canyon accident site | AspenTimes.com

Quick thinking helps rescuers find Snowmass Canyon accident site

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY Local law enforcement authorities were misdirected initially by an accident report involving a car that flew off Highway 82 in Snowmass Canyon early Monday morning, and it took Pitkin County sheriffs deputies about 45 minutes to get to the right spot, according to one official who went out on the call.Deputy Joe Bauer was asleep at home at 3 a.m. when a 2003 Nissan sedan lurched out of control, hopped over the concrete barrier lining the edge of the highway in Snowmass Canyon, flew through the air for a few dozen feet and slammed into the earth below the elevated highway.But, after reconstructing events, Bauer, who was the supervisor on duty later that day, noted that the initial call, from passenger Tim J. Spaulding, 30, of Aspen, left authorities with the impression that the car was somewhere in Aspen.Spaulding, apparently disoriented after his short flight and hard landing, told dispatch he had just been in an accident, and was underneath a bridge, and that he thought he might be in Aspen, Bauer recalled Tuesday.So, Bauer said, calls went out to the Aspen Police Department, and a search was begun under bridges around town until dispatcher Dawn Blake noticed the cell phone call from Spaulding had hit on a cell tower in Old Snowmass.Blake alerted Dep. Michael Kendrick, and they concluded the cell phone call must have come from downvalley instead of from Aspen, prompting calls to the Snowmass Police Department, the Basalt Police Department and the Basalt Fire & Rescue Department to assist in a broader search.The car, driven by Veronica Palomera, 26, of Aspen, was under the elevated roadway and out of view, with its headlights pointed at the hillside next to the highway and thus was difficult to spot, Bauer related.To aid in locating the car, the dispatcher had Spaulding leave his cell phone on while Deputy Kendrick headed downvalley with sirens wailing.As soon as Blake could hear the sirens over the cell phone, Bauer said, she told Kendrick he was close and to begin checking under any bridge structures near him.At about the same time, Bauer said, Basalt Fire & Rescue Lt. Bob Helmus, who was heading upvalley, spotted the Nissans headlights shining dimly underneath the bridge.Bauer estimated that, thanks to some quick thinking on the part of rescuers, the two occupants were in the car for about 45 minutes following the crash far less time than it might have been.It was a pretty frantic search, Bauer recalled. I think they deserve a little credit. I think everyone did a great job considering what we had.Spaulding was treated for minor injuries and released, but Palomera, whom a Colorado State Patrol trooper said might have sustained serious back injuries, was kept at the hospital and listed in good condition as of Monday afternoon.Calls seeking an update on Palomeras condition Tuesday were not answered.Trooper Rick Kolecki said Monday that Palomera likely will be ticketed and charged with reckless driving, driving on a canceled or denied drivers license and driving without proof of insurance. She also might face a drunken driving charge depending on the results of a blood test, Kolecki said.jcolson@aspentimes.com