Local couple injured in fatal wreck on Colo. 9

Grand County accident kills 19-year-old Denver woman


— A 19-year-old Denver woman died, and two Steamboat Springs residents suffered minor injuries in a two-vehicle accident Sunday on Colorado Highway 9 south of Kremmling, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

Kenneth Nibbelink and his girlfriend, Kari Vestreng, sustained non-life-threatening injuries when Nibbelink's red Ford Explorer collided with an out-of-control Honda Accord driven by Rachel T. Shem, State Patrol Sgt. G.J. Meirose said. Shem was pronounced dead at the scene.

Nibbelink and Vestreng live and work in Houston, but Nibbelink has a second home in Steamboat Springs. They were heading back to the airport after spending the holidays in Steamboat when the accident occurred, Nibbelink said Wednesday from Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

Shem's Honda lost control heading north on Colo. 9 at about 10:45 a.m. and collided with Nibbelink's southbound SUV, according to a State Patrol news release.

Speed is thought to have been a factor in the accident, Meirose said. Although Shem's Honda was traveling only about 45 mph at the time she lost control, her speed was too fast for Sunday's icy, snowpacked road conditions, Meirose said.

"What amazed me is that when she was coming at me : there was no slide and correct or wiggle. There was no movement of the slide. It went from rolling down the highway at 45, 50 mph to sliding down the highway broadside at that same speed, in my lane," Nibbelink said. "I just kept hoping and praying that she would slide a little farther into the ditch and maybe just be a little shaken up and need to tow her car."

"All I could do was say, 'Oh my God' and hold on tight," Nibbelink said. "There was no time to swerve."

Nibbelink broke his sternum in three places in the crash. He said Vestreng suffered a fractured sternum, a cracked vertebra and a broken finger.

They were treated at Kremmling Memorial Hospital but then were taken to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood for more treatment. They were listed in fair condition Wednesday evening, a hospital spokesperson said.

Nibbelink said he and Vestreng should be released from the hospital in a few days.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com


Harvey Lyon 8 years, 1 month ago

This, to me, was an avoidable tragedy. While one must always be alert to changing road conditions in winter the section of CO 9 where this happened was totally unacceptable.

I travelled from Steamboat to Silverthorne about the same time the collision occurred. Rabbit Ears pass was in far better shape than this section....and a lot less snow the day before. Between Rabbitt Ears and Kremmling the roads were darn near perfect. South of this section, CO 9 was darn near perfect. However on this, two mile section (give or take) the road had approximately 3/4" of closely shaved ice pack snow that was slicked up with the sun. The road had not been sanded that I could tell nor had the plows done much to scrape it.

The North Bound driver would have crested a hill then immediately gone from clear road to this ice rink.

It was so bad that South bound I went from 55 mph to 25 mph and shifted to 4WD and still felt uncomfortable.

Somthing was different in the way this section of road was maintained to be sure....a different truck or operator perhaps.

There were two other accidents on the side of this section at the same time also, they just went into the ditch thank God.


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