Two damaged Jeeps could be towed out of Crystal River by late Sunday | SummitDaily.com

Two damaged Jeeps could be towed out of Crystal River by late Sunday

Staff report

One of the two Jeeps that rolled into the headwaters of the Crystal River in a hair-raising four-wheeling incident July 2 has been winched up to a road and was being towed out of pristine area Wednesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District sent a staff member to the accident site Tuesday for a firsthand look at the progress in getting the two Jeeps hauled out of the national forest. The Jeep owners and volunteers from a four-wheeling club are using winches on two vehicles and a pulley system to get the demolished vehicles hauled to the road, according to a Forest Service staffer who watched the work Tuesday.

"A couple of the wheels need to be replaced on the vehicle (in the road) in order to pull it out. The group is going back up (Wednesday) to attach new wheels, pump up the tires, and tow that vehicle off the Forest (Service property)," Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer wrote in an email Wednesday after talking with the employee that went to the scene.

"The second Jeep is still at the bottom of the cliff but out of the water," she wrote.

The accident occurred when the Jeeps encountered a disabled vehicle in the middle of Forest Road 315 the evening of July 2. One of the Jeeps tried to squeeze by and ended up in a precarious position, with the left rear tire hanging in the void. The group in the vehicles tried to use a come-along tool connected to the secure Jeep to maneuver the other back onto the road. Instead, they both tumbled into the river. One person was in a vehicle. He survived the tumble, estimated at about 130 feet.

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The accident occurred about 1.5 miles north of Crystal on the Lead King Loop Road.

The vehicle owner and volunteers plan to winch the second vehicle up to the road Saturday, Schroyer said.

"We are asking recreationists to avoid driving that road (this) weekend, until the second vehicle is removed," Schroyer wrote. "Four-wheelers will be unable to pass while the extraction operation is underway."

The Forest Service wants all travelers — including bicyclists and people driving off-highway vehicle — to avoid the area.

Schroyer said she is in contact with the vehicle owner and a volunteer daily. They hope the vehicles will be towed out of the national forest by late Sunday.

"I believe they are trying to extract the vehicles with the least amount of resource damage possible," Schroyer wrote. She said in an earlier interview that if the owners of the two Jeeps were able to get the vehicles off the Forest Service property without additional resource damage they would not face citations.