Aspen Thanksgiving holiday turns tragic for Denver family
ASPEN ” A holiday gathering with friends turned tragic for a Denver family when carbon monoxide overtook the home they were staying at near Independence Pass, east of Aspen, Colorado.
Parker Lofgren, 39; his wife, Caroline Lofgren, 42; and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, were found dead Friday by friends who had driven from Denver to share the house with them. The families had jointly won a stay at the house in a silent auction.
The friends, whom the Lofgrens knew from church, discovered the bodies in bed at the home located at 10 Popcorn Lane, adjacent the North Star Nature Preserve in the exclusive Morningstar subdivision. Authorities were called at 5 p.m. Friday, and Aspen Volunteer Fire Department officials arrived on scene and found carbon monoxide levels to be extremely high. It was later determined by a team of gas and heating technicians that a malfunction of the hot water and snowmelt systems created extreme levels of carbon monoxide inside the house.
Aspen resident Elizabeth Milias said Caroline was one of her closest friends. She spent Wednesday evening with the Lofgrens during a small gathering of family and friends at Milias’ new home.
“They came over to my house to see me and my parents,” Milias said Saturday. “We were so close I wanted her to meet my friends here and see my parents.”
Milias lived across the street from the Lofgrens in Denver for six years before she recently moved to Aspen.
“They were so normal and a lovely family; the family that everyone wants as neighbors and friends,” Milias said, recalling that Parker used to routinely shovel her walkway for her.
Milias received an e-mail message from Caroline Lofgren at about noon on Thanksgiving Day, thanking her for her hospitality and outlining her plans for the rest of the trip.
“It was so good to see you … Just went for a great run down to town (not back up) but might try the uphill tomorrow,” Caro line wrote. “So beautiful here ” you are very lucky to live here. I loved your incredible place and hope I can come back.”
The last time anyone heard from the Lofgrens was about 5:45 p.m. on Thursday when a text message reportedly was sent from Caroline’s phone to friends.
Milias said the Lofgrens went to Kenichi for dinner Wednesday night, as the children had requested sushi. She said Owen and Sophie played with her jukebox at the party, which included about 10 friends.
“They were cool kids, hanging out with the adults drinking wine and they had a great time,” Milias said.
Milias said Caroline was an incredible cook and described the couple as down to earth, even though they appeared to be Denver socialites; both were heavily involved in philanthropic endeavors.
“They weren’t ever trying to be the name on the list but leaders of the cause,” she said.
Parker was co-founder and managing partner of St. Charles Capital, a Denver–based investment bank specializing in “middle market” transactions. Lofgren joined four other partners to found the firm in 2005, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
Caroline served on a number of charity boards, helping to raise money for His-toric Denver, Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. She was active in the Summer Scholars program along with her hus-band, and she also was active in St. Anne’s Episcopal Church and School, where the Lofgren children were enrolled, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
In a statement on the school’s website, Alan Smiley, head of the school, said “Words are completely inadequate in expressing the sorrow we all feel for having such a wonderful family taken from us so suddenly.” The statement said a prayer service for the Lofgrens was planned for parents and pupils at St. Anne’s school on Monday morning before classes, and that attendance that day was optional.
While at St. Charles, Lofgren focused on mergers and acquisitions and in helping to set valuations for financial services companies. According the St. Charles website, Lofgren was involved in transactions worth $2.3 billion in an 11-year span at St. Charles and previous banking firms. Milias said the Lofgrens, who had been married about 13 years, frequented Vail more than Aspen. Their children were enrolled in ski school in Vail.
She recalled that when the Lofgrens were at her house Wednesday night, Mil-ias turned on the gas fireplace and asked Caroline if she smelled anything out of the ordinary since it’s a new house. Milias said Caroline told her she didn’t and commented that because she was paranoid about fires, she would be the first to detect an odor or something out of the ordinary.
Authorities said carbon monoxide detectors were not in the Popcorn Lane home, which is for sale and listed with local real estate agent Craig Morris for $8.95 million.
“And that should be a reminder to have your systems checked out and get detectors,” said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Marie Munday.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane, burn incompletely. It is poisonous and can kill cells of the body. It also replaces oxygen in the bloodstream, leading to suffocation.
The home where the Lofgrens were staying is reportedly owned by Jonathan Thomas and was built by ICM Construction.
The bodies of the Lofgrens are in Grand Junction awaiting autopsies. It could take up to two weeks to have final toxicology screens, according to Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Dr. Chuck Johnson.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, Scot Wetzel, a family friend and CEO of United Western Bancorp who was acting as a spokesman, said, “It was good that they were together when they went. I guess there’s not much more to say at this point.” The news conference was held outside the family’s home at 140 Humboldt St. in Denver, according to the Rocky Mountain News.