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Heroism on the highway

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Dawn Ryden, of New Castle, tries to relax in her bed at Valley View Hospital after surviving a severe accident on Interstate 70 last month.
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NEW CASTLE – The drive along Interstate 70 heading west can be pretty as a postcard, with the snowcapped mountains and the river running alongside, but it can also turn dangerous, as several drivers recently found out.However, thanks to the efforts of a 20-year-old New Castle man, no one was killed in a recent three-car accident involving a large elk, although one woman remains in the hospital with extensive injuries.Kasey Cox, of New Castle, probably would not describe his actions as “heroic.” But that’s what they were when he stopped and assisted in the accident without a second thought, possibly saving several lives. Kasey Cox was westbound on I-70 about four miles west of New Castle shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, with his girlfriend, Sarah Smith, 20, of Rifle, whom he was taking home.It was between New Castle and Silt, when the car ahead of Cox’s, a Dodge Neon, struck a large elk.”I saw the car slow down and brake in front of me, and then I saw the dead elk in the middle of the road,” Cox recalled.The driver was a woman who had two young children in the car with her.Cox pulled over to the side of the road and ran to the car to see if he could help. The woman was apparently calling 911 on her cell phone.”I realized it probably wasn’t safe on the side of the road, and I got the two kids out of the car and gave them to my girlfriend,” Cox said. “The woman’s car was totaled, and she had a cut hand and was complaining about her lower back,” he said.Meanwhile, Patricia Dawn Ryden, 38, of New Castle, driving a 1998 Ford Mustang, came up on the scene, slowed down and swerved to miss the elk in the middle of the road and ran off the side of the road.”I waved my arms at her, and she started walking toward me while I was walking toward her,” Cox said.

Just then a white 1995 Ford Aerostar van driven by Julie Faktor, 33, of Carbondale, came down the highway and also swerved to miss the elk, then headed straight for Ryden and Cox.”I grabbed (Ryden) to move her out of the way, but the van hit her,” Cox said. “I’m not sure whether it hit me, too, or whether it was just her body.”Cox was uninjured, but Ryden was on the ground. Faktor’s van then rolled, landing on its wheels facing north.”I called 911 to ask dispatch if it was OK to move (Ryden) because I know you’re not supposed to move anyone with a back injury, but she was in the road,” Cox said.According to Cox, dispatch informed him that in light of the circumstances, it was best he move Ryden out of the road. He then proceeded to put her in the front seat of his car and waited for the police to arrive.The Colorado State Patrol showed up at the scene of the accident and the trooper and Cox pulled the dead elk out of the road.Dawn Ryden’s storyRyden remembers that it was about 11:55 p.m. on Jan. 29, when she was traveling west on I-70, going home from work in Glenwood Springs and on her way to her daughter’s house in Rifle.”I was between New Castle and Silt when I saw two cars pulled over on the side of the road, and I didn’t know what happened,” Ryden recalled.She saw what she believes was a 500-pound to 600-pound elk dead in the middle of the road.”I swerved to miss hitting the center of the elk, but I hit the back leg,” Ryden recalled.

Her car went out of control and spun several times before she ended up on the right side of the road, hitting a fence.”I was shaken up, but I was fine,” Ryden said. “I got out of the car and headed back to the other two cars. The guy in the front car (Cox) started walking toward me, and I walked toward him to see if I could help them or they could help me.”Cox and Ryden spoke for one or two minutes when the van headed down the road straight toward them.”The van hit me from the front and from that point on, I was conscious, but I was out of it,” Ryden recalled. “I was on the ground, but I couldn’t move, and I remember screaming to (Cox) that somebody had to go move the elk. I panicked that somebody else was going to come along and was going to hit it again.”Ryden also remembered that Cox was on the phone to dispatch to see if it was all right to move her.”Dispatch told him he had to, and he picked me up and put me in his car and laid me there,” Ryden said.A scary nightFor Cox, he was just doing what he thought was right and trying to get everyone to safety. The accident scene, which took more than two hours to clear, seemed like only five minutes to him.”After everybody was loaded in the ambulance, I was waiting and then I realized that this lady had almost died right in front of my face,” he said. “It kind of got to me a little bit – no, it got to me a lot of bit. I didn’t go to work the next day.”Ryden was also shaken up.”I thought I was dead when I was spinning around,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse.”



Faktor, the driver of the van, was also taken to the hospital, but her injuries were reportedly minor.No information was available on the name of the driver of the Dodge Neon who initially hit the elk.According to Trooper Marcus Stegman of the CSP, no charges are being filed in the accident, due to the fact that it was caused by an animal.Fundraising and recuperatingAs of Monday afternoon, Ryden had been moved from the intensive care unit and is now undergoing physical and rehabilitation therapy. “She’s got a broken tailbone, fractured pelvis, a cracked sternum and bruised lungs,” her husband, Conrad Ryden, reported. “But she’s doing very well. We’re hoping she can do home care in about 10 days.”The Rydens have four children, Brittany, 19, Danielle, 16, Benjamin, 14, and Layn, 9.A donation account has been set up at Wells Fargo bank to help with medical expenses, as Ryden has no insurance. Contributions may be made to the account at any Wells Fargo bank.A fundraiser is also scheduled for Sunday, March 12, by her employer, Butch’s Smokehouse and Sports Bar in West Glenwood.”It will be a fundraiser/auction,” said Butch Lontine, owner of the restaurant. “People can donate items or goods and the proceeds will go to Dawn.The fundraiser will include a Texas hold ’em poker game, food and two bands.To donate items or for more information, call Lontine on his cell phone at 309-8111.


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