Rollover accident injures three

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A woman who was thrown about 70 feet down a steep embankment was one of three people injured Wednesday afternoon in a serious rollover accident on Buffalo Pass Road.

The three people, all Steam--boat Springs residents, were heading down the gravel road just before 5 p.m. when the driver, Eric Thomas Sullivan, 31, lost control of the open-topped Jeep Wrangler coming out of a turn. The vehicle swerved back and forth across the road several times before skidding and rolling 1 1/2 times, ejecting all three occupants, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Rick Kaspar said.

Sullivan and passenger Tohna Mari Nadu, 29, were thrown about 15 feet from the Jeep. A second passenger, Cheryl Mae Gartz, 20, was thrown much farther, landing about 70 feet down the embankment, Kaspar said.

According to early reports from the accident scene, it took people several minutes to find Gartz amid the long grass, scrub oak and other trees on the steep slope.

"Steamboat Fire (and Rescue) did an excellent job of going up there and rescuing that girl, given the steep embankment, the heavy brush and the severity of her injuries," Kaspar said.

All three people were taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center. Gartz later was flown to a Denver hospital, and Sullivan is being kept overnight at YVMC for evaluation, hospital spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said. Nadu was treated and released.

Alcohol likely played a role in the accident, Kaspar said. Sullivan submitted to a blood test at the hospital, the results of which are not yet available.

None of the people in the Jeep appeared to be wearing a seat belt. The Jeep had no back seat, so someone also was traveling without an actual seat, but troopers have not determined where Nadu and Gartz were sitting.

Sullivan will be charged with felony vehicular assault and could face additional charges, such as driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding, pending the outcome of the State Patrol's investigation, Kaspar said.

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