Durango, Bayfield residents identified in fatal accident

Victims in Saturday’s fatal head-on collision on U.S. Highway 160 east of Elmore’s Corner have been identified as residents of Durango and Bayfield.

The Colorado State Patrol reported that passenger Judith Coleman, 70, of Durango, died in the crash. She and her husband, Jeremy Coleman, 71, were westbound when their 2000 Dodge Durango went into the oncoming eastbound lane hitting a 2010 Toyota 4Runner driven by Paula M. Carron, 54, of Bayfield, said State Patrol Sgt. Chad Martin.

Jeremy Coleman was first taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center, then flown to St. Anthony Hospital and Medical Center in Lakewood with life-threatening injuries, including spinal injuries, Martin said.

The Coleman’s son, John Coleman, who lives in Boulder, was notified about the accident.

Carron was taken to Mercy with a fractured leg and other injuries.

A report from a source at the scene that one vehicle was from Arvada was incorrect.

Martin said in his report that “after impact, both vehicles remained in contact traveling westbound before coming to a final rest on wheels off the south side of the roadway.”

All three victims were wearing their seat belts, and Martin said in an interview that all of the air bags deployed.

He also noted that despite the severity of the impact, Carron had begun braking and already had slowed to about 30 mph while the Coleman’s Durango was traveling less than highway speed as well, probably about 50 mph, he estimated. Even at the slower the speeds, the collision impact was equivalent to about 80 mph.

Martin also noted that the Toyota has a sophisticated restraint system including a Restraint Control Module, which investigators removed from the SUV.

The module contains some data valuable to investigators, but data are not as sophisticated as that recorded on the “black box” flight-data recorders on airplanes, Martin said. Any data retrieved from the module still needs to be backed up by accident reconstruction done by the investigators.

Both SUVs suffered significant front-end damage. Modern vehicles are designed to crush in the front so they absorb more of the force of the impact, “so the (human) body doesn’t take it all in,” Martin said.

Still, the impact can be forceful enough to cause significant injury and death, depending on several variables.

rgalin@durangoherald.com