Basalt A man was killed Friday evening when a rock smashed into the windshield of his vehicle, but his wife prevented greater disaster by gaining control of the SUV and bringing it to a stop, authorities said.
According to witnesses, the Chevy Tahoe was headed downvalley on Highway 82 in Snowmass Canyon when the rock blasted directly into the driver's side of the windshield, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. The rock hit Thomas Murphy, 45, of Kansas City, Mo. He later was pronounced dead at Valley View Hospital, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
Jennifer Murphy, who was in the front passenger's seat, was able to gain control of the vehicle, put it into neutral and coast to a stop, Thompson said.
The vehicle came to rest a mile downvalley from where the rock hit the vehicle, Thompson estimated. The accident occurred at the downvalley end of Snowmass Canyon, east of the Old Snowmass Conoco. The vehicle came to rest on the right shoulder of the road between the gas station and the Lazy Glen nursery, he said.
Thompson credited Jennifer Murphy for being able to get the SUV stopped in extremely traumatic circumstances. There were five people in the car, including the Murphy's three children in rear seats. The three boys are 4, 8 and 11 years of age. None of the children were severely injured, but they were taken to a local hospital as a precaution. Jennifer Murphy received minor injuries.
The accident occurred shortly before 5 p.m. Basalt sent two ambulances and a fire engine to the scene.
The rock, described as the size of a briefcase, ended up in the vehicle. It appeared to be the same type of red sandstone common in that area of the canyon, Thompson said. It was unknown whether the rock hit the upvalley lanes before bouncing down to the lower, downvalley lanes.
Rain throughout Thursday evening and into Friday may have loosened the rock from the hillside. A little more than two weeks earlier, there was an extremely close call when a boulder smashed the front quarter panel of a Land Rover Discovery heading up Fryingpan Road. The couple in the SUV escaped injury even though the boulder knocked the Land Rover down a 30-foot embankment into the Fryingpan River.