Accident on Red Canyon kills two |

Accident on Red Canyon kills two

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Staff

Two men were killed the night of Saturday, June 18, after their truck tumbled from Red Canyon Road. The truck and men weren’t found until Tuesday.

The Colorado State Patrol trooper who handled the accident investigation was on special assignment last week and could not be reached for comment.

The parents of one of the victims however, were able to shed light on the Strawberry Days weekend accident.

For the most part, Karin and Richard White enjoyed a typical festival weekend. The whole family was in town ” all 13 kids and grandkids ” the sun was bright and a Father’s Day steak dinner was in the works. They had little idea of the news that would arrive officially on Wednesday morning.

On Friday, June 18, Karin White went to the Strawberry Days rodeo with four grandkids, her son Michael, and her former son-in-law, Steve Olson, who was also Michael’s best friend.

On Saturday Michael White and Olson took Michael’s nieces to the Strawberry Days festival for rides and music.

“They left real happy,” Karin said on Friday afternoon. “You knew they were going to have a good time.”

The nieces came home, but Michael and Olson never did.

“It’s not anything unusual that he didn’t (return),” she said of her son. “On weekends he takes off with his buddies, always.”

Michael, 39, and Olson were avid hunters and fishermen, so the family figured they’d gone up to Olson’s house in Redstone to fish.

On Sunday, June 20, they started to worry when Michael hadn’t called and didn’t show up for the steak dinner.

Then on Monday morning, Michael’s boss from Soaking Wet Sprinklers called looking for him.

“I thought something was up when his boss called,” Karin said.

“You start in with the scenario that, ‘Well he hasn’t been around all weekend, maybe the cops got him,'” said Richard.

The Whites called Glenwood Springs police Monday afternoon. The police hadn’t picked him up, and instead listed Michael White and Olson in the office’s missing persons records.

The Whites called family friends looking for answers and clues.

James Vigil, knowing Michael’s love of the outdoors and habit of heading out at dusk to spot animals, organized a group of 4×4 trucks to search Jeep trails around Glenwood Springs. On Tuesday, one of the group spotted the toolbox that usually sat in the bed of Michael’s pick-up truck halfway to the canyon floor from Red Canyon Road.

Apparently, Michael and Olson were headed back down Red Canyon Road ” probably after looking for animals ” when one of their tires slid over the edge and sent the truck tumbling down near the right-hand turn, 100 yards up from the road’s entry gate, Richard White said.

Both men were thrown from the vehicle and killed instantly, he said.

The truck came to rest on the canyon floor on private property. The homeowner was out of town and the truck was completely hidden from view from the road, as was most evidence of its tumble down the canyon wall ” thus the days that passed before the accident was discovered.

A fatal accident on Red Canyon Road is fairly rare, said Glenwood Springs Police chief Terry Wilson. Wilson’s department didn’t investigate, but Wilson does have a long career in law enforcement in the area. Wilson said it had been probably five to 10 years since someone has died while driving Red Canyon Road.

Some local residents think the road is too dangerous, but the Whites haven’t given closing the road much thought, and probably won’t.

“It’s their choice, I guess, if (people) want to drive up it,” Karin said.

For now, the Whites are living life. They held a memorial for Michael Friday and attended one for Olson on Saturday.

Their house will be a bit quieter now though. Michael “would not make a good hermit,” Richard said. He was a happy guy with a good sense of humor, and a love for the television shows “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” as long as there was good company, Tootsie Rolls and popcorn.

“He was just a joy to have around here,” his mother said.

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