Beloved Carbondale teacher identified as victim in crash that also hurt state trooper
A beloved teacher at Ross Montessori school in Carbondale was identified Thursday as the person killed in a crash Wednesday on Interstate 70 near Silt that also injured a Colorado State Patrol trooper.
The trooper had stopped the teacher’s vehicle on westbound I-70 near mile marker 93, and another vehicle crashed into the stopped vehicle at about 5:30 p.m., killing the teacher and injuring the trooper. The crash caused an extended closure of westbound I-70 that evening.
Shaw Lewis, a 39-year-old teacher at Carbondale’s Ross Montessori who lived in Rifle, was killed, according to Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire. The coroner pronounced Lewis dead at the scene.
Trooper Charles Hiller, who’s been with CSP and working out of Eagle since 2014, was standing at the passenger side of the stopped vehicle when the second vehicle crashed into it. The trooper was treated for minor injuries at Grand River Hospital in Rifle.
No charges had been filed by Thursday evening against the second vehicle’s driver, whose identity has still not been released. Walt Stowe, spokesman for Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the accident, said that charges were likely. Stowe also said in a news release that the second driver was injured.
CSP Sgt. Dave Everidge said that the patrol’s vehicle crimes unit was supporting the sheriff’s investigation, as will the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Sonya Hemmen, head of Ross Montessori, said Lewis was very close to his students at the school. He and his wife also have two children who attend Ross Montessori.
“It’s a lot to take in right now,” Hemmen said Thursday afternoon, noting that it will be a hard start to the school year next Wednesday. “But we’re going to offer his family whatever support they need. He was a wonderful part of the community, and he’ll be very much missed.”
Lewis, who grew up in Basalt, taught technology, drove a bus and was a reading assistant at the school. Hemmen said he was a quirky, light-hearted and fun person who loved learning and loved reading.
On Wednesday he was at a book club, where he told a group of professionals that Ross Montessori had made him a better person, said Hemmen. “And we believe that he made Ross Montessori better by being part of our community,” she added.
A grief counselor will be at the school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to help support children or adults who feel they need it.
MOVE TO LEFT
Colorado state law requires drivers to move into the left lane when a patrol car has someone pulled over on the right shoulder. That law has also been modified to include any emergency vehicle, tow truck or maintenance vehicle pulled over with its emergency lights flashing, said Everidge.
If the left lane is blocked and you cannot move over, the law requires you to slow down to a prudent speed, he said. Failing to do so could land you with a $169 reckless driving ticket and four points against your driver’s license.
In the last couple of years, two CSP troopers have been killed in roadside collisions.
The interstate through Garfield County is especially dangerous, not because it features tight mountain curves or steep inclines, but probably because it doesn’t. Everidge said the straightaways of I-70 in western Garfield County likely give drivers a false sense of security and tempt them to pick up speed.
The Post Independent found in an analysis of 10 years of interstate fatalities published in December that Garfield County had the highest number of vehicle crash deaths out of all Colorado’s western I-70 corridor counties. Speed was likely a main factor in these fatal wrecks, as most of them occurred on clear roads, in good weather and in daylight.
Everidge reiterated that if you go off the road at speeds around 70 mph and higher, your chances of rolling your vehicle go up dramatically. And the faster you drive, the higher the likelihood of dying in a wreck.