Two injured in accident

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Two men were critically injured Thursday morning in a head-on collision four miles west of Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40.

Jerome Gerald Velasquez, 34, of Idaho Springs, reportedly was traveling west in a white 2000 Chrysler Concord when he attempted to pass a dump truck near milepost 125. His vehicle immediately collided with an oncoming white 1996 Chrysler Cirrus driven by 26-year-old Jacob Nathanael Martinez of Craig, who was heading east, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brett Hilling said.

The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m. It took Steamboat Springs Fire Department rescuers about 35 minutes to extract the men from their vehicles, which were totalled in the wreck. There were no passengers in either vehicle.

Both men were transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center with numerous broken bones and internal injuries, Hilling said.

Velasquez underwent surgery Thursday afternoon and was listed in critical condition. Martinez also was in critical condition before being taken to Denver Health Medical Center. He was in stable condition Thursday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Both vehicles were traveling at about 65 mph on a flat, straight section of the highway when the accident occurred. A headlight and other debris were scattered several hundred yards from the accident.

Martinez's vehicle spun counterclockwise after the impact and came to rest on the south side of the highway.

Velasquez's vehicle rotated slightly after the impact, coming to rest in the middle of the highway. It reportedly caught fire, but bystanders were able to extinguish the fire before the fire department arrived, Hilling said.

Air bags deployed in the vehicles, and both men were wearing seat belts, he said.

It was snowing, and the highway was wet when the accident happened. Visibility was fair, Hilling said. Officials do not think alcohol was involved in the accident.

Highway traffic was blocked for about 45 minutes while rescuers worked to release the victims from the vehicles. Some drivers were able to avoid the block by detouring on nearby county roads.

Charges are pending further investigation, Hilling said. Troopers interviewed multiple witnesses regarding Velasquez's driving behavior immediately before the accident, Hilling said. He declined to elaborate about the specifics of those reports.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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