Report: Six of 11 passengers were ejected during bus crash
Six of the 11 passengers who were riding the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus that crashed on Highway 82 one month ago were forcibly ejected from the public-transit vehicle, according to a Colorado State Patrol report issued Monday.
The report also shows that the downvalley bus slid more than 70 feet as it made a one-quarter roll onto its left side after slamming against a concrete barrier on the right shoulder of the highway near mile marker 16, just west of the El Jebel area. It also lists the names of the 11 passengers and the basic degree to which they were injured in the Oct. 26 accident.
The driver of the bus, Jaime Nunez, 54, of Glenwood Springs, was not ejected. State police and RFTA officials say he did not require hospital treatment after the accident, but the report notes that he made a “complaint of injury.” The injury severities in the report are broken down as “incapacitating,” “non-incapacitating” and “complaint of injury.”
Three of the riders suffered “incapacitating” or serious injuries, police said. The 11 injured passengers were transported to either Aspen Valley Hospital or Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs shortly after the crash, which occurred at about 7 p.m.
Ten of the 11 passengers are Roaring Fork Valley residents. None of them appear to be listed in public phone records. Two passengers, when contacted by the Aspen Times on Tuesday through other means, said their attorneys advised them not to comment on the accident.
Following its preliminary findings, the state patrol turned the matter over to 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia. On Nov. 18, Caloia issued a statement saying her office would not pursue charges against Nunez, the RFTA driver, who according to police swerved around a slow-moving farm tractor in the right lane in an attempt to avoid collision.
While Nunez avoided hitting the tractor, the quick move around it into the left lane resulted in his losing control of the bus, which skidded in front of the tractor before hitting the concrete barrier and rolling onto its left side.
The back of the tractor, which was towing mowing equipment, had running and flashing lights but not a slow-moving-vehicle emblem as is required by law, police said. The driver of the tractor, Travis C. Wingfield, 35, of Old Snowmass, received a traffic citation. He was not injured.
Neither drugs nor alcohol were factors in the bus crash, the police report says.
Aspen attorney Jeff Wertz said Tuesday that he filed legal notices to preserve the right to sue RFTA on behalf of two passengers so far. He said he is in the process of seeking more information related to the accident, including photographs taken by state police investigators.
Other attorneys are said to be representing certain passengers. Wertz said a recent change in Colorado law increases the liability cap for governmental entities to $350,000 per person and $990,000 in total for incidents such as a bus accident.
However, RFTA’s degree of liability would have to be proven in court, he noted.
Whether RFTA is taking responsibility for medical bills or attempting to settle with the passengers is not known. A RFTA official said in the days after the crash that the public-transit agency wanted to identify and “reach out” to accident victims.
The official could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon after the Aspen Times obtained the state police accident report.
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