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MEEKER I Excessive speed was not a factor in the Nov. 19 single-vehicle rollover accident that injured five Meeker-area teenagers and young adults just west of Meeker.
Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Mike Joos, also the RBCSO public information officer, said Tuesday that the investigation is complete but that toxicology reports have not yet been returned to the county. He said the sheriff’s office is awaiting those results, then all of the paperwork from the investigation will be turned over to the County Attorney’s office to determine what, if any, charges may be filed.
According to the Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office, injured in the accident were: driver Jessica Johns, 19, passengers Zachary Williams, 18, Costin Pallach, 18, and Gabrielle Garzon, 21. The other passenger has been identified as 16-year-old Dominick Cardile, also of Meeker, but because he is a juvenile and because of the investigation at the time, the sheriff’s office could not release his name.
All five occupants were initially transported by Meeker Fire and Rescue ambulances to Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker for treatment.
Johns, Garzon, Williams and Cardile were airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction following the accident—two by life-flight helicopter and two by airplane. Pallach remained at Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker.
Joos said Tuesday that all have been released from the two hospitals except Johns, who remains at St. Mary’s. She is now in a wheelchair and undergoing physical therapy.
Joos said that initially the County Communications Center was notified at 2:56 p.m. on Nov. 19 of a single-vehicle rollover crash 4.5 miles west of Meeker on Highway 64 with multiple injuries.
According to the RBCSO, upon arrival at the scene, the first deputy found one occupant, Garzon, had been ejected, driver Johns was partially ejected and the other three passengers had climbed out of the vehicle, a Ford Explorer, on their own. The Explorer came to rest on its roof in a field, 85 feet south of the highway.
The RBCSO reported initially that the vehicle had been traveling eastbound on Highway 64 when the driver allegedly lost control, swerved, overcorrected and then rotated 180 degrees before leaving the south side of the highway. After the vehicle left the roadway, it reportedly rolled two and a half times, coming to rest on its roof.
On Tuesday, Joos reported that the vehicle was traveling eastbound on Highway 64 when Johns initially lost control, veered off the right side of Highway 64, overcorrected and turned left, crossing back over both sides of the highway, driving off the left side of the highway, where it appears she overcorrected again and turned right, crossing both lanes again, sending the vehicle off the right side of the highway again.
When the vehicle went off the right side of the highway the second time, the front of the vehicle dug in, causing the vehicle to turn 180 degrees, then, when the Ford hit the ground, to roll two and a half times.
According to a sheriff’s office spokesman on Monday, Nov. 24, officers from Rio Blanco County had traveled to Grand Junction during that weekend to interview those in the accident.