Authorities probe how Lakewood dad, son took deadly plunge off cliff
Rocky Mountain News
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado “-The question hovers over the tragic deaths of James Blissett and his 9-year-old son who plunged off a cliff in their off-road vehicle early Monday.
Why did the father take drive away with his son, Jesse, from a family hunting camp after midnight down a steep, dangerous Jeep trail in Garfield County?
Transfer Trail is described as “dangerous” and “scary,” on off-road vehicle Web sites.
It is rated “difficult” and off-road drivers are cautioned: “Travel is recommended during the day and in dry weather” on the trail that can be steep, narrow and “very rocky” and “very rutted,” according to the White River National Forest Web site. The weather was dry the night of the accident.
Investigators are still interviewing family members and waiting several days for toxicology test results before commenting further on what’s now called a death investigation, said Garfield County sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Tanny McGinnis.
Such tests would reveal whether alcohol, drugs or prescription medication played a role in the deadly plunge near treacherous Transfer Trail in the Flat Tops Wilderness. An autopsy was being conducted on the father and son today in Grand Junction.
Family members, who were meeting with coroner officials in Glenwood Springs today, could not be reached for comment.
Investigators believe the crash near the 10,218 Windy Point occurred between midnight and 1 a.m., because that’s when Blissett left the camp, driving south toward Glenwood Springs.
Blissett’s “modified” Jeep rolled from a narrow road off Transfer Trail, according to coroner’s officials.
The father and son were thrown out as the vehicle rolled repeatedly.
Jesse Blissett’s body was found 1,000 feet below the road, Mortensen said. The father’s body was found 300 feet below the road.
Search and rescue teams worked into a snowy evening to retrieve the bodies.
During descent, Transfer Trail drops from 10,800 feet to 5,800 feet.
After the sweeping views of Windy Point, the trail drops 8 miles on switch-backs through Aspen-studded slopes, according to the off-road enthusiast Web site, TrailDamage.com
“The trail turned from fun to a little scary as it got very slick and steep,” an off-road driver cautioned in a review last year on TrailDamage.com.
Some Jeeps “got a little sideways on the trail in places” during the descent, the off-roader recounted. ” … We could have done without the scares on the way down.”
Search and rescue teams were were expected to continue the search for the vehicle today.
Investigators believe the vehicle kept rolling down into the No Name Creek area, said Deputy Coroner Lanny Grant.
“We think it traveled so far down it’s out of sight,” Grant said.
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