The identities of three people who were killed in a head-on crash Monday on U.S. Highway 491 at the Colorado New Mexico border have been released by Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers.
Next of kin have been notified.
The victims who died are Ronald Brent Howell, 68, of Cortez; Michael Lester Sproul, 52, of Kirtland, New Mexico; and Penny Lynn Jenness, 47, of Hesperus.
According to Colorado State Patrol Master Trooper Gary Cutler, Howell was southbound in a white Ford F150 pickup when a northbound blue Chrysler minivan driven by Sproul crossed into the southbound lane and collided head-on with Howell.
The collision ejected both occupants of the Chrysler van and caused Howell’s truck to crash into an embankment and roll onto its side. Howell was the sole occupant.
There were no survivors, and victims died at the scene.
Cutler said that “based on signs of drug use,” drugs and excessive speed by the driver of the northbound Chrysler van were suspected factors in the crash, according to the accident report.
According to the report, Howell was wearing a seat belt. The passenger of the Chrysler van was not wearing a seat belt, and it is unclear whether the van driver was using one.
A secondary crash occurred after the head-on collision, according to Colorado State Patrol. A driver of a Honda Pilot hit heavy debris from the first crash, but there were no injuries. That crash is being investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Autopsy results, including toxicology analyses, are pending, Deavers said. Colorado State Patrol said the crash investigation continues.
The crash occurred Monday morning at mile marker 1 in Colorado, north of the New Mexico state line, said Colorado State Trooper Josh Lewis. Emergency responders included the Ute Mountain Ute Fire Department, Colorado State Patrol, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
The fatal crash caused the highway to close for several hours in both directions at the crash site. Emergency responders were notified at 6:55 a.m. by a passerby, who dialed 911.