Basalt resident killed in car crash

Staff Report
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident Marci Benton was killed Monday when her Jeep Wagoneer slid off snowpacked Frying Pan Road and was submerged in the icy Fryingpan River, officials said.

Benton was 4.8 miles up the valley, driving toward Ruedi Reservoir, when the accident occurred on a straight stretch of road. She was less than one-quarter mile from her home.

An investigation by the Colorado State Patrol determined the accident occurred at about 2:30 a.m. A passerby spotted the vehicle and reported it at 10:51 a.m.

Benton’s vehicle went down the right embankment and landed on its wheels in the river. “The vehicle was submerged under the water and the driver drowned,” the State Patrol said in a statement.

The first officials from the Basalt Fire Department arrived at 11:06 a.m. and swimmers with the Basalt Swiftwater Rescue Team entered the water a short time later.

They entered the vehicle through the rear hatch and found only one occupant, Deputy Chief Jerry Peetz said.

“One victim was recovered, unresponsive, and transported to Valley View Hospital at 11:20 with CPR in progress,” said a statement from the department.

Benton wasn’t wearing a seat belt. A toxicology report will determine if drugs or alcohol were in her system. The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined.

Benton landed in one of the worst spots possible along the Fryingpan River.

The water level in the river is generally shallow because of controlled released from the Ruedi Reservoir dam. In most places the river meanders through rocks. Benton landed in one of the few holes deep enough to submerge a car.

Adding to the tragedy was the fact that Benton was grieving the loss of her husband. Tom Benton, a highly regarded Aspen artist, died in April. Marci and Tom were married nearly 16 years.

The Basalt Fire Department responded with 15 personnel, two rescue vehicles and one ambulance. Basalt police assisted with traffic control and the Carbondale Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team assisted in the search.

The recovery marked one of the strangest days that Basalt Fire Department officials said they have ever experienced. “It’s been a busy day,” said Peetz.

Minutes after the call came for the Swiftwater Rescue Team, the department was called to the scene of an apparent suicide in the El Jebel Mobile Home Park. An Eagle County deputy sheriff confirmed that the suicide was successful, but no details were available Monday.

Earlier on Monday, an ambulance crew from the fire department was called to the scene of what deputies described as an unsuccessful murder-suicide attempt in Blue Lake subdivision.

Monday’s events are rare in any given year, Peetz said, but it was particularly strange to have three in one day. He credited Basalt’s force, which is largely made of volunteers, for effectively handling the rush of calls.

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