Questions linger after fatal accident

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— Ever since the first week in November, Connie Perez has slowly been trying to pick up the pieces of her life that were shattered in an early morning accident on Rabbit Ears Pass.

"Being here in this home without him is horrible," Perez said, referring to her husband, Stanley Nathan Perez, who was killed in a semi-trailer crash. "Someday, I walk around here trying not to look at the pictures. It is awful. I hate it. He was so young, and we had such a good marriage."

Perez's husband, who was nicknamed "Nath," was killed after his semi-truck pulling a tanker carrying 8,500 gallons of fuel rolled over at about 5:45 a.m. Nov. 6 at about milepost 140 of U.S. 40.

Authorities said the 35-year-old Thornton man was traveling down a left-hand curve on Rabbit Ears Pass when he drove off the right side of the road. The truck rolled three-quarters and came to a rest on the driver's side. Perez was crushed under the cab of the red 1997 International.

The death marked the second time a motorist died while traveling on the pass this year. It also was the eighth fatality to occur on the pass since 1998.

Perez was an experienced truck driver who had been driving since he was 18, Connie Perez said.

"His step-father got him interested in driving," she said. "He did not like it very much, but it was something he had gotten into."

Perez met her husband in 1991 when she was invited by her mother to a dinner.

"His mom and my mom worked together," she said. "For the dinner, he was his mom's date, and I was my mom's date."

The two met at the dinner and began talking.

"I thought he was cute," she said. "He was a very good listener, and we talked all night."

A week later, they went on a date and were together ever since, she said. The couple was married in 1996.

"He was a wonderful man," she said. "He would do anything for anybody."

Perez started working for a Denver-based company, James Inc., in October.

"He had just bought his truck about a month before the accident," Perez said.

A week before he was killed, he had made a fuel delivery from Denver to Steamboat Springs.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 6, Perez woke up to once again make the drive to Steamboat Springs.

"There was nothing unusual about the day," she said of that Monday. "On Sunday, he had slept all day and all evening. That Saturday he had taken me out to celebrate my 35th birthday."

In the nine years Connie Perez knew her husband, he rarely spoke about his occupation, she said.

"He never wanted me to worry," she said. "But sometimes he would say to me that he wished the state would take care of the passes better when it snowed."

When Perez lost control of the truck, snow was falling and the roads were icy. Crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation had also not applied scoria to the roadway, said State Trooper Brad Keadle, who investigated the accident.

After conducting an investigation, Keadle determined the cause of the accident was a combination of the slick roadway, driver error and vehicle malfunction.

Keadle believes Perez was driving too fast for conditions. The rear brakes on the truck were also found out of adjustment, he said.

Perez wishes the roads could have been made safer that morning.

"I don't get it why they did not put something down on the road," she said. "I don't understand why they don't take care of the passes the way they should."

Due to the accident, members of the Steamboat Springs and Colorado State Patrol Hazardous Materials teams transferred the 8,500 gallons of fuel to another tanker, which the company provided. In all, about 100 gallons of gasoline were lost because of the incident.

While the work was being done, Rabbit Ears Pass was closed for about 10 hours. Traffic was diverted onto Gore Pass.

Perez and her husband did not have any children from their marriage, but Stanley Perez did have two sons from a prior relationship, she said.

"He was one of the good persons out there," she said. "He would do anything for anybody. That was the type of person he was."

Perez and her husband both had dreams they were trying to make come true. Perez wanted to stop driving and start his own trucking business.

"He wanted for someone else to drive his truck," she said.

Connie Perez wanted to get into a position with her career where her husband did not have to drive a truck.

"I started real estate school," she said. "My dream is I wanted to make enough money so he did not have to work. I was not able to give him that."

Perez has finished about two months of the four-month training and is expecting to complete the work in a year.

Since the accident, most of Perez's time has been taken up haggling with insurance companies and dealing with the loss of her husband.

"He was such a good guy," she said. "I don't know why this happened to him. Only God knows. Right?"

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