Teen faces felony after Glenwood classmate hurt in crash
A newly licensed 16-year-old driver faces a felony vehicular assault charge after a classmate who was riding in her car Thursday night was seriously injured in a crash while turning at what police say was an unsafe speed into the Cardiff Glen neighborhood.
A report on the Glenwood Springs High School football game Friday in Steamboat Springs that appeared in the Saturday Post Independent named sophomore team member Victor Gamez as the student who was seriously injured in the accident the night before.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson confirmed Saturday that Gamez was the most seriously injured in the Thursday accident that also sent the driver and three other passengers to the hospital with minor injuries. Gamez was reportedly airlifted to a Denver hospital and later underwent surgery for a fractured left eye and cheek.
He was honored at the football game by both teams, and members of the Steamboat team wore Gamez’s No. 40 in athletic tape on their helmets.
According to Wilson, Gamez was in the back seat and was not wearing a seat belt.
A running update on Gamez’s condition on the GSHS website indicated that Gamez underwent surgery on Friday to repair a fracture to his left eye and cheek. As of 5:15 p.m. Saturday he was reported to be awake with the ventilator removed and was breathing on his own.
Meanwhile, donations to help the family were being encouraged. A GoFundMe page has been set up in Gamez’s name by one of his football teammates, Easton Gaddis.
The accident happened about 8 p.m. Thursday when the 16-year-old female driver of the Volvo passenger car, who Wilson said had received her license only four days prior, was attempting to turn from Airport Road onto Clark Street in Cardiff Glen.
From the accident report, it appeared the driver made a “sudden, uncontrolled turn,” he said.
The car went out of control and skidded across a greenbelt, taking out a small tree and arcing to the left before jumping curb and crossing another street, then striking two large aspens head-on just short of hitting a house, Wilson said.
“We believe from the damage involved that the car was traveling at too great a speed for that turn,” Wilson said. “Four days in for a very inexperienced driver, that’s just not doable at the speed we figure she was traveling.”
One of the trees was nearly uprooted, and there was a large v-shaped dent in the hood and engine compartment, he said. Airbags in the vehicle deployed.
The driver was cited for vehicular assault causing serious bodily injury, a class 5 felony, as well as reckless driving and having underaged passengers in her car with no adults.
State law requires that new teen drivers have no passengers younger than 21 in the car unless a parent or other licensed adult driver is in the vehicle. For the next six months, one passenger only younger than 21 is allowed without adult supervision.
In this instance, all of the passengers were under 17, Wilson said.
GSHS Principal Paul Freeman, who is often outspoken about young drivers and safety, said the main task at school Friday was to support distressed students and staff, not to lecture about any lessons to be drawn from the incident.
“We are deeply relieved to hear … that Victor’s condition is improving,” Freeman said.
That said, “It’s clear that the greatest threat to the safety of our children is when they are at the controls of a car, or riding as passengers in cars driven by inexperienced and unskilled drivers.
“As a school we can make some contribution to driver education,” he said, adding the school is currently working with area first responders to conduct a mock fatal driving accident.
“We must press home the need for caution when driving,” Freeman said. “We are also reviewing our sophomore health class to see if the existing content regarding driver safety can be improved.”
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