New BHS grad dies in car crash

Austin Potthoff Enlargephoto

Austin Potthoff

Bayfield resident Austin Potthoff died last week when his Jeep Cherokee went off Highway 140 near Breen and into a stand of trees. He graduated last month from Bayfield High School.

It was standing room only on Monday at Pine Valley Church as family, friends and hundreds of people from the surrounding community came together to remember the 18-year-old. A camouflage coffin with Austin's boots and hat placed on top lay in front of the congregation, his saddle and other memories placed about the room. One of his brothers, Alec Potthoff, shared stories about his life.

After the services, Potthoff's coffin was taken to the Pine Valley Cemetery by horse and carriage. His brothers Alec Potthoff and Ryan Mears rode behind on their horses with Austin's riderless horse following in a heartbreaking, but beautiful, final journey.

Potthoff died at 10:40 p.m. on June 18. He was driving south on Highway 140 when his Jeep ran off the right side of the road. He was not wearing a seatbelt. He was partially ejected and he sustained fatal injuries when his head hit a tree, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Passenger Colton Denson, 17, of Durango was using his seatbelt. He was taken to Mercy Medical Center, although the police report listed him as uninjured.

The Colorado State Patrol report listed marijuana use as a suspected factor in the crash. However, CSP Public Information Officer Adrian Driscoll said a deer on the road also is considered a factor, although the deer was not hit.

"I wouldn't give a whole lot of weight to (the marijuana)," Driscoll said. "We are awaiting the toxicology report. We aren't sure that was the cause."

As for the deer, which was not listed in the incident patrol, Driscoll said on Monday, "We are examining that angle now. On the scene we weren't sure, but going back in the daylight, (indications were that) the deer wasn't hit but it's the reason he swerved off the road, so we'll amend the report."

Pothoff was born Nov. 24, 1995. His obituary is on page 9A.