Teen driver in fatal Interstate 70 accident was drunk
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — Underage drinking played a role in a triple fatal accident that took place in a construction zone on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon during the early morning hours of April 14, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
“Based on the toxicology report, the driver of the 2006 Audi had been driving under the influence at the time of the crash,” State Patrol Trooper Bonnie Collins said in a follow-up press release issued Tuesday.
The driver, Brianda Zavala of Glenwood Springs, was 18, not 17 as earlier reported by the State Patrol. She was also driving without a driver’s license, Collins said.
Zavala was reportedly headed east in the designated westbound lanes of traffic in a two-way-traffic construction zone 13 miles east of Glenwood Springs at 5:30 a.m. April 14 when her car slammed head-on into a westbound King Soopers semi-truck.
Zavala and two backseat passengers in her car, Jennifer Nevarez, 16, of Carbondale, and Albino Ortiz-Monge, 24, of Gypsum, were all pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the truck, Peter Zhuchok, 54, of Aurora, was not injured in the accident.
According to Garfield County Deputy Coroner Ray Alexander, Zavala had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system at the time of the accident, based on toxicology test results.
The legal blood alcohol level limit for driving in Colorado is 0.08 percent, he said.
Alcohol was also found in the systems of the two other victims in the crash, Alexander said.
Nevarez had a blood alcohol level “a little above” the legal limit, he said. Ortiz-Monge had alcohol in his system as well, though not above the legal limit at the time, Alexander said.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue Liquor Enforcement Division confirmed this week that state liquor enforcement officials have been assisting the State Patrol in the accident investigation.
Ro Silva with the Colorado DOR could not comment on what the premise of the division’s involvement is, because it’s still an active investigation.
Unconfirmed reports since the accident indicate that the two teenage girls had been seen drinking at a Glenwood Springs liquor establishment before the accident.
Nevarez was a sophomore at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, where news of her death hit the student body and school staff hard.
The Monday after the early Sunday morning accident, an all-school assembly was held in her honor, and extra counselors were on hand to offer grief support. Some students had already put together a video tribute of Nevarez to show at the assembly, according to RFHS Principal Drew Adams.
Zavala had been a student at Glenwood Springs High School until last year, when she left to pursue her GED, according to Roaring Fork School District Re-1 officials.
Trooper Collins said the accident investigation continues as additional interviews are being conducted.
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.