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Accident survivor gets chance to drive home her safety message

Donna Daniels

Today, Kasie Burtard will tell the students of Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale about the morning when her life changed forever.

By telling about the accident that put her in a wheelchair, Burtard, a 2000 RFHS graduate, hopes to convince students that safe driving can ensure they won’t end up like her.

She’ll speak at a special assembly that will offer students compelling reasons, on this day before Roaring Fork’s prom, to drive safely.

“Driving isn’t like a game,” she said. “You have to be safe all the time. My parents were always saying don’t speed, and wear your seat belt.

“I never listened to them. Now I’m paying for it,” she said.

Burtard’s accident happened on the morning of Jan. 4. She was on her way to work at Apex Security in Glenwood Springs from her home in Rifle.

It was snowy that day and the highway was icy.

Somewhere between Silt and New Castle, Burtard lost control of her truck.

“It hit the median and rolled a couple of times. I flew out the window,” she said.

Alcohol had no part in the accident. But speed and the lack of a fastened seat belt did.

Burtard suffered fractured bones in her face, a broken jaw, pelvis and ribs, and punctured lungs.

Worse, three vertebra in the middle of her back were knocked so strongly out of alignment that they squeezed her spinal cord. Now she is paralyzed from the waist down.

Doctors have told her she will never walk again.

But Burtard disagrees. She figures that since the spinal cord wasn’t severed, she’s got a good chance. It is her one hope for the future.

Since coming out of Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in March, Burtard has lived with her parents on their horse farm outside Carbondale. She sits on the front porch of the rambling log home and looks out at a sweeping view of Mount Sopris and the Elk Range.

“A lot of things have changed. It’s hard not being able to ride a horse. I used to rodeo every weekend in the summer,” she said.

But being bound to a wheelchair does have an upside.

“I don’t have to do chores,” she said.

“I don’t get to do a lot of the things my friends are doing. But they take me everywhere,” she added.

Since the accident, a lot of her friends and relatives are now wearing seatbelts.

She wants to make sure Roaring Fork students understand how important that is. She wants to keep them from learning the hard way, if she can.

“I just want everybody to learn from my experience. I don’t want them to go through what I did,” she said.


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