Vail man dies in car accident near Wolcott |

Vail man dies in car accident near Wolcott

Geraldine Haldner

John Russell Ambrose was driving south at as much as twice the legal speed limit of 40 mph on a relatively straight stretch of the rural two-lane highway when his 1995 GMC Yukon veered off the road about five miles north of Wolcott, police said.

Trooper Don Brown of the Colorado State Patrol said Ambrose’s SUV swerved between the road’s 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.

“There is a 256-feet-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 by Eagle County Coroner Donna Barnes. An autopsy to determine the exact cause of death is scheduled for today in Glenwood Springs. Brown said speed and alcohol are suspected as contributing factors.

Ambrose was not discovered until 8 a.m. Monday morning when a passing motorist called authorities.

Ambrose was last seen at State Bridge, a concert venue popular with local residents, late Sunday night.

“We would like to remind everyone to drive with caution and care during the summer months,” Brown said after a weekend that saw two fatalities on rural highways in Eagle County.

A 23-year-old Illinois man was killed Saturday when his vehicle tumbled off Colorado Highway 24 between Red Cliff and Minturn.

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.

Schober said Ambrose had come to live in Vail “to be in the mountains and enjoy himself and be a Rocky Mountain guy.”

Kieler said Ambrose’s family is in seclusion. Bo plans for a local memorial have been arranged at this time.

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

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