Trucker charged with vehicular homicide
GLENWOOD SPRINGS A truck driver involved in a crash on Highway 82 that killed two people in January is facing new charges of vehicular homicide.
Mark Chamness was charged Wednesday with two counts of vehicular homicide/reckless driving and one count of vehicular assault/reckless driving in Garfield County District Court, a court clerk said Friday.
Chamness hasn’t had a chance to enter a plea yet. His attorney, Tom Silverman, was out of the office and unavailable for comment Friday.
Chamness received four citations from the Colorado State Patrol after the Jan. 8 crash, including careless driving causing death. All four citations were misdemeanors. At that time, the district attorney’s office said the citations issued by the state patrol were appropriate for the case and no felony charges were anticipated.
The office’s strategy changed last week when the misdemeanor charges were dismissed. The new charges filed Wednesday are felonies. District Attorney Martin Beeson didn’t return repeated telephone calls in recent days seeking comment on the case.
The tragic accident occurred shortly before dawn near Catherine Store, between Carbondale and El Jebel. Chamness was driving a rig that pulled out of a private driveway on the north side of Highway 82. He was hauling a mobile trailer that was destined for Buttermilk for use as an office at the Winter X Games, authorities said.
Chamness tried to turn left onto the eastbound lanes of the highway. He had to wait for eastbound traffic to clear. The trailer he was pulling blocked both westbound lanes, according to the state patrol’s accident report.
A westbound Kia Sophia with three occupants slammed into the trailer. The driver and a front passenger were killed instantly. They were Elizeo Trinidad, 21, and Noemy Ramos, 23. The back-seat passenger, Julio Hernandez Mendoza, was critically injured.
The state patrol’s investigation concluded that the trailer Chamness was pulling didn’t have any lights. The trailer would have been difficult to see in the dark, the investigator concluded.
Mendoza, through his guardian, filed a civil lawsuit earlier this spring seeking damages from Chamness, of Littleton, and the trucking firm that employed him, Davidson Industries of Adams County.
The lawsuit indicated Mendoza suffered permanent injuries in the crash, including injuries to his brain and face, and he will need ongoing health care. Mendoza, a former concrete worker, is now under the care of his father in El Jebel.
Mendoza is seeking compensatory damages and special damages in amounts to be determined, along with interest and legal fees.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.