Friends extoll victim’s virtues
GYPSUM ” Jessi Barton saw her friend John Rodacker during Eagle Valley High School graduation just two days before a head-on collision claimed his life.
“He came up to me and gave me a hug from behind,” Barton said. “I hadn’t seen him in almost a year. We started talking, just catching up because the last time I saw him was last year when he graduated.”
The two made plans to hang out in a couple of weeks, but those plans got snuffed out along with Rodacker’s life Monday when, according to the Colorado State Patrol, the Alpine Lumber truck he drove crossed the double yellow lines on Highway 6 and struck an oncoming truck.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Barton said. “I just talked to him two days ago.”
At approximately 2 p.m. Monday, Rodacker’s was headed west when his truck crossed the center lines as the other truck ” an eastbound Alpine Vending and Video truck ” also crossed the yellow lines, said Justin Mitchell, spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol.
“Witnesses at time of crash reported extremely high winds as well as dust that reduced visibility in that area,” Mitchell said, adding there was no braking because the two likely never saw one another.
The dust originated from a construction site south of Highway 6 at the end of the Eagle County Airport, Mitchell said. Both Costco and the airport have construction projects in the area.
Mitchell said investigators do not think high speeds, drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision.
The 29-year-old driver of the vending truck ” Jose Chavez-Cobos ” was taken to the Vail Valley Medical Center and subsequently transported by helicopter to Denver Health with leg and internal injuries. Mitchell said officials at Denver Health indicated Chavez-Cobos is in stable condition.
Chavez-Cobos’ driver license is currently canceled or denied, Mitchell said. Mitchell said he will confer with the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges will be filed against Chavez-Cobos.
Rodacker died at the scene due to multiple blunt-force injuries, Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said. About three weeks before the accident, Rodacker began working at Alpine Lumber, company manager Rob Scott said.
“He was a great guy,” Scott said. “He always had a smile on his face and was willing to do anything he was asked.”
Rodacker’s family could not be reached for comment or for information about a funeral service.
Barton met Rodacker during her freshman year at Eagle Valley. She remembered a funny young man who was always smiling and confident about himself.
“He believed in himself more than anything,” Barton said. “His happy, positive attitude always rubbed off on people. It was hard not to have a good day around him.”
Rodacker stayed busy in high school competing in track, lacrosse, football and other pursuits, Barton said. He loved to snowboard and just have a good time, she said.
“If there was a place where somebody was having fun, he was there,” Barton said.
Another friend, Nate Haupt of Vail, said Rodacker liked to help people out.
“He was the kind of person if somebody looked lost he’d help them out ” little things like that,” Haupt said.
Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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