State Bridge crash victim had high blood-alcohol level |

State Bridge crash victim had high blood-alcohol level

Matt Zalaznick

Autopsy results released Friday on John Russell Ambrose, of Vail, showed his blood alcohol level was .320, Eagle County Coroner Donna Barnes said.

“That’s very high,” Barnes said.

The limit for driving drunk in Colorado is .10.

Ambrose, who worked at Heavenly Ham in Eagle-Vail, was last seen at the popular concert venue State Bridge late Sunday night. The crash was not discovered until 8 a.m. Monday, when a passing motorist called authorities.

Ambrose was driving south on Highway 131 at as much as twice the 40 mph speed limit when his 1995 GMC Yukon careened off the road about five miles north of Wolcott, said Trooper Don Brown, of the State Patrol.

Ambrose’s SUV sped off a relatively straight stretch of road and swerved between the pavement and the gravel shoulder for approximately 400 feet, colliding with a reflector post before rolling off the roadway and coming to rest upside down, Brown said.

“There is a 256-foot-long skid mark,” Brown said, adding that the vehicle at one point rolled “end-over-end” before it “vaulted over a ravine and collided with an embankment and rolled to the bottom of the ravine.”

Ambrose, who was wearing his seat belt and was not ejected from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene of massive internal injuries.

Ambrose’s was the second in a series of fatal crashes that occurred in Eagle County this past week.

Charlene Thomsen-Rounds, 48, of Eagle, and a 23-year-old Illinois man were killed and two others are in critical condition after a crash on Interstate 70 near Gypsum and separate accidents on U.S. Highway 24 near Red Cliff.

Thomsen-Rounds died when her Ford Explorer drifted off I-70 and then skidded back across the interstate and rolled over two-and-a-half times into an irrigation pond. Her passenger, 28-year-old Bill Switala, remains on life support in a Denver hospital.

The Illinois man died when his car tumbled off Highway 24 between Red Cliff and Minturn.

“We would like to remind everyone to drive with caution and care during the summer months,” Brown said.

Mike Kieler, owner and operator of Heavenly Ham, an Eagle-Vail deli where Ambrose had been employed since January, 2001, said he was saddened by the loss of a trusted employee.

“John was a Southern boy, raised with all the dignity of a Southern gentleman,” Kieler said Monday. “I told him over and over “would you please stop calling me sir’ and he’d say “if my dad knew, I’d get in a lot of trouble.’ He was a wonderful, engaging young man, he was like a son to me.”

Rhett Schober, who came to know Ambrose first as a tenant and later as a friend with whom he shared a passion for fly-fishing, said he, too, will remember Ambrose as a young man who minded his manners every day.

“He was a very nice person and a great tenant. He always called me sir and was very polite.”

A father himself, Kieler said he worried about Ambrose just like he had worried about his own son in his 20s.

“You try to talk to these kids about drinking and driving, but you don’t know if they listen,” he said, adding that Ambrose “will be sorely missed” by everyone at Heavenly Ham, including a number of regular customers who knew Ambrose for his gracious manners and charming demeanor.

“We are planning on placing a white cross at the spot where he died to remind other kids to be careful,” Kieler said.

Vail Daily reporter Geraldine Haldner contributed to this report.

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