Driver killed in accident on Rabbit Ears Pass

Man apparently fell asleep at the wheel traveling


— A 45-year-old Walden man was killed Saturday afternoon in an accident where a truck plunged 100 feet off Rabbit Ears Pass.

Authorities suspect Steven N. Munk fell asleep while driving eastbound on the pass just before 3 p.m. at milepost 146, Colorado State Trooper Travis Randolph said.

"The man drove the truck off the side of the road," he said. "From what we gather, he fell asleep. There were no skid marks. The truck rolled and landed at the bottom of the hill."

Munk's death is the first traffic fatality of the year in Routt County and the first to happen on the pass in the past 13 months.

Munk died because of head injuries, Routt County Coroner Doug Allen said. Toxicology tests will be conducted to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor.

Munk was ejected from the maroon Ford F-350 diesel truck. A passenger, a 48-year-old woman, was able to stay in the truck. The woman, whom authorities did not identify, was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The woman suffered cuts and bruises and was complaining of pain in her abdomen, said Linda Casner, the hospital's director of nursing.

Saturday evening the woman was undergoing several tests to determine if she suffered any internal injuries, Casner said.

After the accident, the woman was able to get out of the truck and walk up the hill, Randolph said.

Munk was found about 42 feet away from the truck, which came to a rest on its roof.

Steamboat Springs Assistant Fire Chief Bob Struble led a crew of five firefighters to get the body up the steep hill.

Firefighters and Allen placed the man's body in a basket, which was pulled up the hill with ropes.

The truck went off the right side of the road about 300 yards west of the pass' west summit. The truck went straight instead of following a left-hand curve in the road.

The truck traveled a total of 258 feet off the road. As it went off the side of the hill, it clipped pine trees. Parts of the truck were tangled in a number of pine trees that were split in half.

A motorist who witnessed the accident reported it at 2:40 p.m. by stopping at a Colorado Department of Transportation office six miles from the accident.

Randolph and two other state troopers responded to the scene to investigate.

Munk's body was removed from the scene about 90 minutes after the accident was reported. A towing company was called to the scene to recover the truck.

The accident did not impact traffic on U.S. 40. Authorities took up one lane on a portion of the pass where a climbing lane is present.

The last fatal accident to happen on Rabbit Ears Pass occurred in March 2001 when a semitrailer driver was killed.

In 2000, two motorists were killed in traffic accidents on the pass. In 1999, four motorists were killed on the pass, and two motorists were killed in 1998.


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