State patrol says drugs and alcohol weren’t part of fatal accident

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Two women who were killed Sept. 19 when their car plunged into the Fryingpan River didn’t have any trace of drugs or alcohol in their systems, according to a final report by the Colorado State Patrol.

The investigator concluded there were no weather or road conditions that contributed to the accident. There was no evidence that the driver of the car slammed on the brakes before driving off the roadway, so evasive action due to wildlife or another vehicle was unlikely to be a factor, the report said. And no mechanical issues were detected with the rental car, a 2016 Kia Sedona, according to Trooper J.W. Tice.

He concluded the driver was either inattentive or possibly distracted. The car was northbound when it went off the east side of Frying Pan Road 4.7 miles north of Basalt. The time of the crash hasn’t been determined because it wasn’t witnessed.

Yvonne Honeybrink, 71, and Kristina Herron, 64, both of Columbus, Ohio, weren’t able to get out of the car. Both died of asphyxia due to drowning, the report said. Injuries detected in the autopsy and other bits of evidence indicate that Honeybrink was driving, the report said.

It was a freak accident because the water level in most parts of the Fryingpan River wasn’t deep enough at that time of year to submerge a vehicle, authorities said. The car landed upright in the outside of a bend scraped out by the river. It was fully submerged. A couple riding bicycles on Frying Pan Road spotted what they thought was a plastic bag in the river. Upon further investigation, they saw a roof rack but couldn’t determine if anyone was in the car. They called authorities at about 4:30 p.m.

The plastic the couple spotted turned out to be an airbag. It appears that some of the windows in the car were open at the time it plunged into the river. The driver’s-side seatbelt had been in use, Tice concluded. It couldn’t be determined if the passenger’s side seatbelt was in use.

“With this particular crash, both side windows were open, which would have accelerated the sinking of the Kia,” Tice wrote.

Honeybrink and Herron were on a tour of Colorado mining towns when the accident happened. Tice pieced together their route using receipts from hotels and the car rental, video on a cellphone, comments they made to family members and a journal.

They flew to Denver on Sept. 17, rented a car and stayed at a hotel in Black Hawk. They drove to Aspen, possibly over Loveland and Independence passes, on Sept. 18 and stayed at a hotel. They checked out of the Aspen hotel the morning of Sept. 19 and were bound for Ouray. They decided to check out Basalt and the Fryingpan Valley. Their last known stop was at a Basalt restaurant for desserts.