Leadville man dies in rollover wreck near Climax mine | VailDaily.com

Leadville man dies in rollover wreck near Climax mine

Robert Allen
Summit Daily News
Vail, CO Colorado

LAKE COUNTY – An unidentified Leadville man died on Highway 91 near Climax on Tuesday afternoon after he was ejected from the 1988 Ford Bronco he was driving, according to a Colorado State Patrol press release.

At about 5 p.m. the driver lost control of the Bronco, which traveled off the right side of the southbound road, re-entered and rolled three times. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and authorities are withholding his identity until next-of-kin are notified, according to the press release.

“People speed down that hill quite a bit on that curve, and there’s a little dip. It looked to me like he hit the dip and lost control,” said Maribeth Lewis-Baker, who arrived on the scene moments later. “It was really, really nasty.”

Lewis-Baker, the transit director for the Town of Breckenridge, was driving home from work when she saw several people standing at the scene as some cars drove through it.

“There were a couple of people trying to direct traffic, but it wasn’t going very well,” she said Wednesday. “I asked if anybody had checked the victim and nobody was answering.”

With eight-and-a-half years working in transportation, Lewis-Baker had experienced similar scenes. She checked the lifeless victim before covering him with a sleeping bag that had been in the Bronco.

“I grabbed it and covered the victim because that’s just respectful. It’s what you do,” Lewis-Baker said. “I’m a mother myself, and I wouldn’t want my kids to have to see that.”

Next she set to work directing traffic until deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrived.

An anonymous witness from Tuesday’s scene e-mailed the Summit Daily to express gratitude. The wreck occurred on a roughly 14 mile stretch of the highway where mobile phone service is unavailable.

“(Lewis-Baker’s) efforts kept someone else from getting hurt during the lengthy wait for emergency personnel,” according to the e-mail, which said it took nearly 40 minutes for deputies to arrive.

Lewis-Baker said Tuesday was the fourth time in a year that she’d stopped in the highway segment with no phone service to help someone.

“I don’t understand why they don’t put a cell phone tower in,” she said.

There are an estimated 1,000 people who commute daily between Leadville and Summit County.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s response to Tuesday’s wreck was impressive, Lewis-Baker said, adding that people “assisted me” with directing traffic before the road was closed.

The road was closed from 6:05 p.m. to 9:49 p.m., and traffic was forced through a detour including Highway 24 and Interstate 70 through Vail Pass.

The witness said the Bronco left skid marks of more than 300 feet and that “the debris field covered the entire highway,” according to the e-mail.

Drugs, alcohol and excessive speed do not appear to be contributing factors in the wreck, according to the CSP press release.

Lewis-Baker “was a true public servant who went out of her way to help others when she didn’t have to,” according to the e-mail from the witness.

Lewis-Baker said she rather “did what I needed to do.”

“I don’t think it would be something I could live with if I would just drive on by,” she said.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.

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