Rabbit Ears Pass reopens after fatal crash; deceased woman ID’d | CraigDailyPress.com

Rabbit Ears Pass reopens after fatal crash; deceased woman ID’d

Matt Stensland

The driver of a semi involved in a fatal accident Friday on Rabbit Ears Pass talks to a trooper while the sport-utility vehicle involved in the accident burns. The woman inside the car died.

— Before a woman died in a fatal car accident Friday on Rabbit Ears Pass, several people called the Colorado State Patrol to report she possibly was driving drunk.

The Colorado State Patrol said in a press release that the woman’s 1998 Ford Expedition was weaving and driving off the road near Kremmling before it crashed into a tanker truck and caught fire.

“Troopers were responding from the Kremmling and Steamboat Springs areas looking for the Ford and arrived at the crash scene approximately one minute after the crash occurred,” the release stated.

CSP identified the woman who died in the crash as Debra Emal, 61, of Fraser.

The crash was reported at about 2:30 p.m. near mile marker 153 on U.S. Highway 40 in Grand County about 18 miles east of Steamboat Springs. The highway then was closed for nearly five hours.

Emergency responders initially were told a vehicle was on fire, and it was possibly involved in a crash.

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Steamboat Fire Chief Mel Stewart said the trooper was the first emergency responder to arrive. Stewart said the trooper could tell someone was inside the SUV, and the trooper tried to put out the fire.

"He was under the impression that the person was deceased," Stewart said. "He expended his fire extinguisher with no effect, and he couldn't get close to the vehicle."

After a fire engine arrived, firefighters quickly were able to put out the fire, but Emal had died.

The Ford suffered extensive damage.

"The whole front left side was pretty much crunched in," Stewart said.

The driver of the tanker truck, Mark Bills, of Parker, was not injured. There was significant damage to the undercarriage of the tanker truck, which was empty, Stewart said.

According to CSP, the Ford was going west when it crossed the centerline and collided with the driver’s side of the tanker truck. The Ford came to rest in the middle of the highway and was engulfed in flames.

“Drug or alcohol impairment by the driver of the Ford is being investigated as a contributing factor in this crash,” CSP’s press release stated. “The Colorado State Patrol would like to remind drivers to not drink and drive and we encourage motorists to call 911 to report aggressive and other drivers that they suspect to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland