Case closed in collision
ASPEN, Colo. No criminal charges are warranted in a Jan. 14 backcountry collision between a snowmobiler and a snowboarder, investigators for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office concluded Monday.”It was clearly an accident, and it’s unfortunate,” said Joe Bauer, a patrol director with the sheriff’s office.Sheriff’s investigators felt they couldn’t file charges because of conflicting statements from witnesses and there was no conclusive evidence, Bauer said. The investigation was closed Monday.The end of the investigation doesn’t bring closure on the incident for either Roy Reed, the New Castle man who was driving the snowmobile, or Doran Laybourn, who was snowboarding.In a written statement the sheriff’s office released Monday, Laybourn, 26, said justice would be served only if Reed was jailed.”Actions speaker louder than words,” Laybourn wrote. “The dude that hit me is dangerous, rude, inconsiderate and mean. Protect and serve – throw him in jail.”But in his first statements about the incident, Reed said in an interview he continues to fight misperceptions he is to blame for the incident. There seems to be a natural bias among some people that a snowmobile driver must be in the wrong when involved in an accident with a snowboarder, he said.Laybourn and his friends portrayed the accident as a hit-and-run, said Reed, 47. “That’s not how it went down at all,” he said.
Reed was guiding some other snowmobilers on Richmond Ridge on Sunday, Jan. 14, when a skier approached him, looking for a ride to the top of the hill. Reed said he didn’t know the skier but agreed to help him. The skier climbed on the back of Reed’s snowmobile rather than getting a tow, as some accounts suggested.Reed said he came to a spot where the trees closed in and formed a one-lane trail. He estimated his speed at 10 to 15 mph.Reed said he never saw Laybourn coming out of the woods. “The next thing I am aware of is seeing stars; picking myself up out of the snow and people yelling,” he wrote in a statement to deputies.Laybourn’s witness statement claimed that Reed’s snowmobile was traveling 35 or 45 mph, although he acknowledged, “I never saw him or heard him before he hit me.”The wreck occurred near Hurricane Point on Richmond Ridge, about 3 miles south of Aspen Mountain’s Sundeck. The area is popular with backcountry powderhounds.Laybourn and a friend were snowboarding in the area and were preparing to depart a track compacted by a snowcat or snowmobiles when the accident occurred.”It felt like I was hit by a train when the snowmobile hit me,” Laybourn wrote. “I was knocked from my feet, thrown like a rag doll through the air and whipped face first onto the helmet of the driver. My head exploded and blood sprayed everywhere.”Laybourn suffered a shattered right leg, broken facial bones, lacerations on his face and head and broken teeth. He was in Aspen Valley Hospital for nearly two weeks and faces extensive physical therapy.Reed suffered a concussion, multiple muscle strains and loose teeth. He said he was eventually hospitalized for four days at Valley View Hospital because of ongoing dizziness, nausea and pain on the right side of his body. He was unable to work for three weeks.The pain, combined with the publicity of the incident, have been stressful, he said.”It’s just been kind of nightmare,” Reed said. “I was just trying to help out [the skier who needed a ride], and the next thing there’s all sorts of crazy stuff going on.”
The men have conflicting accounts about what happened after the accident.Laybourn’s statement said everyone was panicking and running around the site while he was lying on the ground, writhing in pain and assessing his next steps.”The driver of the sled was a complete ‘a–hole.’ He showed no remorse and tried angrily to blame me for the accident, complaining that I had hurt his arm and had been in his way!” Laybourn’s statement said.According to Laybourn, the only assistance Reed and his passenger offered were a “rag” and some napkins to help stanch the bleeding.Reed said it took him a little while to gather his wits because he had “the crap” knocked out of him in the collision. The impact knocked him off his sled. He said he offered Laybourn his bandana, and his passenger also was trying to give items to stop the bleeding.Reed insisted it was Laybourn and Laybourn’s riding partner, Justin Gordon, who were yelling after the accident. They were both screaming obscenities, Reed said, and that made it difficult to help.”It’s hard to offer assistance to someone who’s threatening you,” he said.Reed said he was aware his passenger was on a radio, and he thought the man was contacting either the ski patrol or Mountain Rescue Aspen. Therefore, he said, he thought help had been called.Gordon attempted to take Reed’s snowmobile to retrieve the snowmobile he and Laybourn were using. Reed acknowledged he wouldn’t let the man take his sled. Reed said he knew he was injured and he didn’t know where Gordon wanted to take his machine. He didn’t want to get stuck without transportation.After he shook off his injuries, Reed said he took Gordon the one-quarter to one-half mile to the other snowmobile. When he got back to the crash site, Laybourn told him Gordon wouldn’t know where the key was, so Reed returned up the hill. But Gordon had found the key and was gone. By the time Reed returned to the crash site, Laybourn had been loaded onto a snowmobile.Laybourn wrote that he made the decision he had to be evacuated to the Aspen Mountain ski patrol hut near the Sundeck rather than wait for help. He felt internal bleeding endangered his life.
In Laybourn’s view, Reed failed to render aid and assistance adequately.Reed said he offered what assistance he could. He said he did not try to follow the other snowmobile because he was uncertain whether the men were headed to the Sundeck or down Little Annie Road.Even in retrospect, Reed said, he would not have moved Laybourn. He felt the proper reaction was to stabilize him at the crash site and get help to the scene. He said Gordon evacuated Laybourn before any other action could be taken.Reed said he conferred with his passenger and decided to go down to the Castle Creek Valley floor via Midnight Mine Road. He eventually hooked up with the people he was guiding, then went to the sheriff’s office and reported the accident.Reed said, “I apologize for the accident,” and he feels bad about the injuries Laybourn suffered. However, he is adamant the accident wasn’t his fault: “I did nothing wrong,” he said.Laybourn feels differently. His statement to investigators said Reed was negligent by failing to operate a snowmobile in a safe manner. He claimed Reed failed to travel at speeds that take into account trail conditions, obstacles and other trail users. He also criticized Reed for “failure to render aid and assistance” and “failure to assume responsibility for one’s actions.”
Bauer said the sheriff’s office concluded Reed did attempt to render aid and he took appropriate legal steps after the accident.”He did render aid,” Bauer said. “It wasn’t what Doran and his friend thought he should do.”Gordon and Laybourn decided to evacuate Laybourn to the patrol hut, Bauer noted. At that point, it didn’t make sense for Reed to remain at the scene. Reed reported to the sheriff’s office about 90 minutes after the accident.”He did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Bauer said.Laybourn said Monday he was disappointed with the decision of the sheriff’s office. In a statement, he said, “I am hurt and confused. This guy ran me down on a 15-foot flat road. He fled without offering assistance and [he wasn’t] charged with a crime. Is it a free-for-all back there, or is someone or some agency going to step up to help?”Richmond Ridge is a hodgepodge of private mining claims and national forest dissected by Pitkin County roads. There is a jumble of uses: Aspen Skiing Co. commercial powder tours, independent powderhounds often using snowmobiles, cross-country skiers and people on snowmobile tours.Bauer said this incident, perhaps, points to the need of more regulation on the part of a public agency. The U.S. Forest Service is probably best suited to take action since it manages so much of the land on Richmond Ridge.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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