Wife says trucker involved in Glenwood-area wreck believes he was not at fault

The wife of a Del Norte man who faces charges and now is being sued following a fatal accident Aug. 16 just south of Glenwood Springs says he believes it wasn’t his fault.

Authorities say John H. Briggs, 58, was hauling a log-loaded trailer on state Highway 82 when he ran a red light, striking a vehicle that was turning left onto the highway. The driver, Claudia Ramirez, 24, was killed.

“In his opinion it wasn’t him, it was her that ran the red light,” said Briggs’ wife, Shelia.

She also has raised concerns that the intersection might not be safe.

Briggs faces misdemeanor charges including careless driving resulting in death, not stopping at a red light, having an expired vehicle registration and violating commercial vehicle safety rules.

Luis Miguel Ramirez, a Garfield County resident who is the husband of the woman who died, has filed a suit accusing Briggs of negligence including disregard of a traffic light and driving in excess of the posted speed limit.

Capt. Rich Duran of the Colorado State Patrol’s Glenwood Springs office says investigators don’t think Briggs was speeding. However, he said someone driving a weighted-down truck must allow more time to stop.

Duran said his agency is pretty confident Briggs ran the red light. He said there were witnesses, but because the case is ongoing he declined to say whether they saw Briggs run the light.

The suit seeks compensation for economic and noneconomic damages.

If convicted of careless driving resulting in death, Briggs could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Shelia Briggs said truck drivers and relatives she and her husband have talked to have described the intersection as “a horrible place.” She said there’s a high speed limit, the light changes quickly and there is no flashing warning light ahead of the traffic light.

The light is at a curve on Highway 82 at the intersection of Garfield County Road 154. The speed limit on Highway 82 there is 55 mph. Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said that speed limit is consistent with elsewhere along the highway in the same area. She said there is a sign warning motorists coming from each direction about the signal.

The light was installed in 2008. Shanks said she doesn’t have more recent data, but through 2010 there had been nine accidents at the intersection, but none causing injury or death.

“That’s well below the state model average,” she said. “This intersection is performing better than the average intersection of its kind in terms of safety.”

Highway 82 sees heavy commuter traffic. Duran said Highway 82 intersections from Glenwood Springs to El Jebel all are safety concerns for the State Patrol.

“We’re always looking at ways to improve intersections and driver safety at those intersections,” he said.

Several are in areas with 55-mph speed limits, he said. But the real issue is people not paying attention to yellow lights and racing to beat red lights, he said.

Shelia Briggs said her husband and she recently had started the trucking business, and the accident likely will be the end of it, between impound fees, truck repairs and attorney and other costs. She said the State Patrol hasn’t released the truck.

“We can’t even get his personal belongings out,” she said.


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