Wrong-way driver causes crash
VAIL PASS – A man driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 forced a vehicle off the highway Saturday evening, injuring three women when the Jeep Cherokee they were riding in rolled 350 feet down an embankment on Vail Pass.
Martin Savala, 38, of Brighton, was later arrested in Eagle County for driving under the influence. He was driving without a license Saturday. Colorado State Patrol (CSP) officers said his license had previously been revoked for another alcohol offense.
The women were westbound at about 7 p.m. when they met up with Savala, who was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes just west of Copper Mountain. When the driver of the Cherokee tried to avoid the man’s Toyota Tercel, she lost control and the Jeep left the road.
While all the women were wearing seatbelts, one suffered head injuries, according to the CSP. She was taken via a Flight For Life helicopter to St. Anthony’s Central. Hospital officials couldn’t provide an update on her condition. The other two were reportedly taken to Vail Valley Medical Center.
The Jeep rolled several times as it traveled down the steep embankment, stopping on the bike path, according to the CSP.
“It pretty much totaled the vehicle,” said Copper Mountain Fire Lt. Tim Schlough. “One patient was ejected. One was trapped and had to be extricated.”
While officials didn’t release the women’s names, Schlough said they were from Vail.
Savala turned his vehicle around after the accident and drove west until he was arrested by Eagle County officers.
“We got a good description of the car from witnesses on scene, and we aired that information to all agencies west,” said CSP Cpl. Brett Williams. “So they were looking for him.”
He is being held in Eagle County on the accident-related charges and an arrest warrant from Garfield County. Additional charges in Saturday’s crash are expected to be filed against him in Summit County.
Williams said the women were at a geographical disadvantage.
“There’s a real slight curve there and they were driving into the sunset,” he said. “I guess they realized he was there at the last minute.”
Officers don’t know how long Savala was driving the wrong way, but Williams said if he started driving eastbound in the westbound lanes at the Vail Pass rest stop, he did so for at least five miles.
“If it was from Vail, it was 12 miles,” he said. “So we’re actually pretty lucky we didn’t have more accidents.”
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