SUV crashes in the river
November 30, 2006
A 75-year-old Basalt man lost control of his vehicle Wednesday on Two Rivers Road, and the car plunged into the Roaring Fork River.The Volkswagen Touareg was traveling east at 35 mph along the flat riverside stretch, said Basalt Patrol Sgt. Jose Chavira. The car hit a slick spot near mile marker 22 and plunged over the embankment, landing on its side in the center of the frigid water. The driver escaped through the broken sunroof and stood on a rock just downriver from the vehicle, where he waited for rescue.The driver suffered only minor facial lacerations but was in danger of hypothermia standing in wet clothes in the below-freezing afternoon weather.Witnesses who saw the overturned car in the icy water called Basalt police at 12:15 p.m., and Chavira was first on scene.”I told him to stay on the rock and not move,” Chavira said. A few witnesses were using a rope to attempt to rescue the stranded man, but Chavira said the situation was too dangerous. He told them to step back and wait.Basalt fire crews were on the scene in minutes, and a swiftwater rescue team in cold-water gear scurried down the embankment. Jerry Peetz, Basalt fire’s operations director, Cleve Williams and Ron Cathers quickly rigged a rope from the truck down to the shivering man. The three edged out into the freezing current and in minutes they had secured the victim with a harness and hauled him to safety.The man was in danger of hypothermia, Peetz said, but medical teams treated the driver’s injuries roadside, and police drove him home.”You can lose motor control in a matter of minutes,” Peetz said. The driver was wise to wait for the swiftwater team, which does extensive training in the river and with ropes, he said.Chavira said the driver was not exceeding the 45-mph speed limit and will not be charged with reckless driving. A tow truck crew pulled the car from the river shortly after the incident.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.