Officials plan hefty enforcement for holiday


— As tourists flock to Steamboat Springs for Independence Day, authorities are cracking down on drunken drivers not only because of an expected increase in traffic but also because of a rash of alcohol-related crashes that have killed four people in as many months.

The Fourth of July holiday is one of the most traveled days of the year, and local authorities are stepping up enforcement to keep drunken drivers off the roads in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

"We will hit it hard," Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said. "We will have plenty of officers on the road."

Authorities are wary going into the holiday because of the number of alcohol-related crashes that have occurred in Routt County since March 16, which was the start of the St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Since that time, seven alcohol-related crashes have occurred, which have left four people dead.

The task of investigating the accidents has fallen on the shoulders of the Colorado State Patrol office, which is based in Craig.

"This is the most since I have been here," said Sgt. Hank Chase of the accidents that have occurred in the four-month span.

The most recent fatalities happened this past weekend, and the Colorado State Patrol suspects both involved alcohol.

Dustin Mikelson, 27, of Johnstown was killed at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning just west of Hayden when his car slammed into an oncoming truck on U.S. 40. Mikelson, who died at the scene, is suspected of being drunk. The driver of the other vehicle suffered minor injuries.

Early Sunday morning, a 19-year-old Denver man was killed in a one-car accident on County Road 62. John Campbell was killed after he was ejected from a 1995 Toyota Celica at about 2:30 a.m.

The alleged driver of the sports car, Mario Lintz, 19, is suspected of being intoxicated. The Denver man faces felony charges for the accident that also injured a 19-year-old Steamboat Springs woman, Leslie Gibson.

Two alcohol-related crashes occurred in June where one person was killed.

On the evening of June 16, Brandin Duane Brown, 25, of Craig was arrested after losing control of a vehicle on U.S. 40 seven miles west of Hayden.

Brown is suspected of being drunk and faces a felony charge because a passenger, a 36-year-old Utah man, suffered a serious head injury.

Robert Muncy had to be rescued from the mangled vehicle and then rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

A 31-year-old Oak Creek man was not as fortunate when he crashed in the early morning hours of June 4.

Steven Robert Lundt died after he was ejected from his truck when it flipped end over end on C.R. 14. A toxicology report showed Lundt had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18.

The legal driving limit in Colorado is 0.05.

Three alcohol-related crashes occurred in May. The most serious accident happened over the Memorial Day weekend.

Eric Don Bell, 20, of Hayden suffered a serious head injury after he was ejected out of a sport utility vehicle the morning of May 26 on C.R. 29. Bell had to be flown to a Denver hospital because of the extent of the injury.

The alleged driver of the vehicle, Trevor Don Kochenower, 20, of Steamboat Springs is suspected of being intoxicated. He faces a felony charge. Bell stayed three days in the hospital before being released.

On May 4, Travis Self, 24, of Steamboat Springs was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after he allegedly wrecked his 1996 Ford Ranger on C.R. 33.

Self injured a knee in the accident where the truck took out about 94 feet of fence, a power pole and a telephone box.

Three days earlier, a 47-year-old Oak Creek man suffered compression fractures to his back and severe cuts to his ear and head after he lost control of his vehicle on C.R. 14.

James Francis Bolton, who has a previous drunken driving conviction, took a breath test at Yampa Valley Medical Center. Court records show Bolton had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18, which is more than twice the legal limit.

The first alcohol-related fatality occurred the evening of March 16. Sherry Larine Silver, 46, of Craig died after her truck went off the side of the road and crashed into a tree on U.S. 40 six miles west of Hayden.

Silver, who was traveling alone, went off the right side of the road, hit a gate post a street lamp and then a large tree.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner will have every deputy on duty working 12-hour shifts because of the holiday.

"We are taking a zero tolerance approach on everything," Warner said. "People just need to quit drinking and driving."


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