19-year-old man pleads guilty to obstructing help

21-year-old Stephen Thomas died in 2009 North Routt incident

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— A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday to obstructing emergency responders in their attempt to help Stephen Thomas on Feb. 28, 2009, in North Routt County. Thomas, 21, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The man pleaded guilty to a Class 2 misdemeanor of obstructing emergency services medical personnel. The deal, tentatively accepted by Judge Thomas Ossola, would include 18 months of supervised probation, 64 hours of public service and an apology letter to Thomas’ mother, Jackie Saari.

The man was 17 at the time of the incident, and the charges are part of a juvenile case. Because he was a minor at the time of the incident, the Steamboat Pilot & Today is not releasing his name.

Thomas was reportedly drinking at a party in North Routt County when he passed out. According to the facts presented by the Routt County District At­­torney’s Office, and accepted by the man, he “unlawfully and knowingly obstructed emergency medical personnel” by not providing correct information and by being confrontational with emergency responders.

The man’s parents were present in court and accepted the plea deal, as did the man. Saari also told the judge, who was present by telephone, that she agreed with the deal. She will have more of a chance to speak at the sentencing, scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 10. The judge is set to formally accept the deal at that time.

Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg reported that Thomas had a blood alcohol level measured as high as 0.3, or more than three times the legal limit for driving a vehicle, 0.08

The report states that the cause of death “is consistent with combined impact of alcohol toxicity and aspiration of gastric contents,” Ryg said. Aspiration occurs when someone vomits while unconscious and is unable to clear his or her airway.

Thomas was unconscious when North Routt Fire Pro­­tec­tion District emergency responders reached him, and he was pronounced dead at Yampa Val­ley Med­ical Center.

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