Authorities can’t pinpoint cause of tractor rollover

MEEKER — Inexplicably, Gene Scritchfield’s tractor veered off the road Oct. 29, rolled and pinned him underneath.
“There were no pre-collision marks on the roadway that would indicate Gene attempted to maneuver the tractor away from the left side of the roadway,” said Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Mike Joos. “Gene did not try to steer the tractor back onto the road, even after the left side went off. There was no braking. He did not turn the engine off and he did not drop the front bucket down to try and stop the tractor, leading us to conclude that he was either asleep or unconscious. The (tractor) did not have any defects that caused the accident.”
The accident, on County Road 41, about five miles east of Meeker, not far from where Scritchfield lived, was reported at 5:35 p.m.
“When the call was dispatched, they said the operator was pinned under (the tractor) and I had dispatch call Valley Repair to immediately dispatch a heavy tow truck,” Joos said. “The tow truck arrived less than five minutes behind the fire department and ambulance.
“Gene was removed and transported to Pioneers Medical Center, but stopped breathing about 20 minutes later and they started CPR,” Joos said. “After an hour of CPR, they stopped and he was pronounced dead at 7:33 p.m.”
Scritchfield, a well-known outfitter and rancher, was 38.