Deadly Crash Raising Concerns About Resources

By: Jessica Zartler Email
By: Jessica Zartler Email

A family camping trip turned deadly when a man crashed his off–road motorcycle on the Grand Mesa on Saturday. Monday the Plateau Valley Fire Department says a lack of resources makes rescues like these challenging and can compromise care.

From the time that dispatchers got the call that 29–year–old James Waegli Jr. had crashed his off–road motorcycle head on into an SUV, it took rescue crews two hours and 17 minutes to get him to the hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.

The Colorado State Patrol says it all started when Waegli was headed north on Forest Service Road 258, about 13 miles south of Collbran, when he slid on some gravel and lost control.

Troopers say he was thrown off of his bike and into a stopped Ford Bronco.

According to Plateau Valley Fire Department dispatch logs the call went out at 8:01pm, crews were loaded up and left at 8:09pm, got to the scene at 8:53pm
and didn't arrive at the hospital until 10:18pm.

The Plateau Valley Fire Department says the trip would have been faster if Care Flight was available, but the chopper was on another call.

Rescuers say considering where the crash happened, they made good time.

"You're dealing with curvy mountainous roads and that can extend times," PVFD Chief Mike Harvey told 11 News on Monday.

Harvey says the bigger problem, is a lack of paramedics.

The fire chief says if there was another call at that time, someone's care could have been compromised.

"Every minute counts and and alot of it comes down to available resources," said Harvey.

Plateau Valley only has one EMT and one paramedic to cover more than 800 square miles, that's an area more than 22 times larger than the City of Grand Junction.

"We're spread very thin," said Harvey.

Since Plateau Valley is a special district, the board of directors is responsible for overseeing its operations. Calls to the board president were not returned.

"Our board is aware, we're working on a strategic plan," said Harvey.

But Harvey says the plan will come down to taxpayers and money.

"The public has to decide what level [of care] they want and sometimes they're not willing to reach into their pocket," said Harvey.

The Colorado State Patrol is still investigating the crash and has not released its report. The Mesa County coroner is trying to figure out Waegli's cause of death.

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