Five injured in snowy accident

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Five young adults were injured Saturday morning when their 1987 Subaru GL-10 wagon slid on an icy section of Colorado Highway 131 and collided with a tow truck en route to another accident.

Only one of the people in the wagon was wearing a seatbelt, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

Eric Anderson, 20, of Richmond, Va., was driving the Subaru and suffered the most serious injuries of the group. After being transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center, he was flown to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction with head and chest injuries, according to the State Patrol.

Sara Sumwinkle, 32, was the one wearing her seatbelt, but she still incurred a broken right arm. Matt Butler, 24, and Cameron Billingsly, 22, suffered facial lacerations, and an unnamed 16-year-old girl broke her right wrist.

The driver of the tow truck, Kevin Hensen, 22, of Steamboat Springs, was uninjured.

The car was traveling north coming into the large horseshoe bend in the highway about one mile north of Oak Creek before 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Hensen was driving south in a Ford F-350 tow truck from Ace Towing when he saw the Subaru coming into his lane.

"They were driving way too fast," Hensen said. "I pulled over to the guard rail as far as I could, and I was almost stopped. I was just hoping and praying they would get over."

The Subaru did not get over in time and collided with the tow truck squarely, and bounced back eight to 10 feet. Hensen's tow truck moved back only about six inches.

"The Subaru was surely driving too fast for the conditions," Colorado State Trooper Chris Tafoya said. Hensen said he believed the car was traveling between 40 and 60 mph when it came around the corner.

Both vehicles came to rest on the roadway, blocking both lanes for about three hours, according to a news release.

The Subaru was mangled so badly, that firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life and other tools to pry off doors and the roof to get the five passengers out, said Oak Creek Fire and Rescue Chief Chuck Wisecup.

Five ambulances -- two from Oak Creek, two from Steamboat and one from Yampa -- responded to the accident, and three transported the injured, Wisecup said. In all, from the Colorado State Patrol, Oak Creek Fire Protection District and ambulance crews, 18 officials were on the scene.

"We've had multiple accidents here on this corner, especially in the winter," Wisecup said.

The accident is under investigation by the Colorado State Patrol.

Several other reports of vehicles sliding off icy roads came in to the Routt County Dispatch Center on Saturday, including a sport utility vehicle that slid down an embankment on Rabbit Ears Pass and a truck and trailer that jackknifed in the roadway. The wreck on Colo.131 was the most serious.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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