Police investigate the July 2, 2013, accident that killed German motorcyclist Fels Bernhard. Routt County Judge James Garrecht on Monday determined Steamboat Springs resident Scott Penfold was guilty of careless driving resulting in death.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Police investigate the July 2, 2013, accident that killed German motorcyclist Fels Bernhard. Routt County Judge James Garrecht on Monday determined Steamboat Springs resident Scott Penfold was guilty of careless driving resulting in death.

Judge finds Steamboat man guilty of careless driving resulting in death

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— The Steamboat Springs man who swerved, hit and killed a German motorcyclist has been found guilty of careless driving resulting in death as well as weaving.

Scott Penfold's sentencing has been set for 8:30 a.m. July 23. Penfold faces a minimum of 10 days in Routt County Jail, a maximum of one year in the jail and a fine of between $300 and $1,000.

Penfold's attorney, Drew Johnroe, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The one-day bench trial was held Thursday.

The defense argued Penfold might have blacked out, which caused him to swerve into oncoming traffic July 2, 2013, near the Steamboat Springs Community Center on U.S. Highway 40.

In his ruling, Judge James Garrecht wrote there was no evidence that Penfold took any evasive maneuvers to avoid the accident, and there was no evidence of drug or alcohol impairment. Two of the motorcyclists touring the United States were hit, and Fels Bernhard died at the scene.

"It is clear to the court that when one drives into the opposite lane of traffic without justification that person is not exercising due care," Garrecht wrote.

Testimony during the trial showed that Penfold reported experiencing a tingling feeling before the accident. He also suffered from diabetes, had a slightly elevated blood sugar count and elevated heart rate, but none of those issues supported the conclusion that Penfold blacked out, Garrecht determined.

Garrecht wrote that Penfold initially denied to emergency responders that he blacked out.

"Neither the EMT, the emergency room doctor, (n)or the defendant's physician could find any medical evidence that would support the conclusion that the defendant blacked out," Garrecht wrote.

After the accident, Penfold cooperated with police during their investigation. Johnroe said during the trial that Penfold felt awful about what had happened.

"For whatever reason, the defendant became distracted from his primary obligation to negotiate his vehicle safely," Garrecht wrote.

District Attorney Brett Barkey stated in a press release that his office "will review all appropriate facts and circumstances prior to making any sentencing recommendation."

“Our office again extends our deepest sympathies to Mr. Bernhard’s family and friends, and hopes this result will bring a measure of closure for them," Barkey stated. "As for Mr. Penfold, his choices that day are reflected in the verdicts, and it is our hope that he takes time to consider those choices as he moves ahead in his life."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Comments

bill schurman 5 months ago

"The defense argued Penfold might have blacked out...." "might have"? That's the defense ? Time to "man up" Mr Defendant. And, to Judge Garrecht: remember a man who was doing nothing more than enjoying his stay in the United States was killed as a result of Mr. Defendant's reckless conduct.

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jerry carlton 5 months ago

Interesting post from ex-public defender. For maybe the second or third time I agree completely with Mr. Schurman

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John St Pierre 5 months ago

ummm has aways sounded like a cell phone to ...... a man is dead and 10 days to 1 yr is all that is allowed....

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Pat West 5 months ago

I think it's distasteful to that the Pilot chose to post up the photo of the scene of an innocent man's violent death, when a photo of the GUILTY offender should be posted so that the community knows the face of this killer.

I also would like to know if the guilty offender will be allowed to continue to drive? With an unknown, undiagnosed condition that causes blackouts, our legal system needs to step up and get Mr. Penfold off the roads forever. His next blackout that kills someone should be considered murder, and those that allow him to continue to drive should be held responsible.

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Scott Wedel 5 months ago

I don't think there was any evidence presented that the driver was doing anything to be distracted. Nor was there apparently convincing evidence of a medical issue. Nothing more than speculation on what might have happened to cause the accident.

Seems to me that the judge's decision makes sense and follows the law. There is no good evidence of anything other than an accident in which a person died. No incriminating evidence of driver knowingly failing to concentrate on the road (so he wasn't reckless).

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jerry carlton 5 months ago

You cross the center line and collide with two people and that is not reckless? I had a class B CDL and drove professionally for 10 years or so in the Yampa valley and to Grand County. No accidents or tickets. Lay some lawyer talk on me Scott. You should have been a lawyer. Even the ex-public defender calls this conduct "reckless" in the first post on this subject and I assume he has a real law degree.

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