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Driver in fatal crash near Pagosa Springs tests above limit for marijuana

Last month’s accident left one dead, four injured

A driver who died last month after causing a three-vehicle crash just west of Pagosa Springs tested nearly double the legal driving limit for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, authorities said Thursday.

Around 10:30 a.m. Dec. 14, Loveland resident Neil Caryl, 27, lost control of a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 and crossed the center line while headed west on U.S. Highway 160 near mile marker 137.

Mile marker 137 is about seven miles west of Pagosa Springs.

Caryl hit an oncoming 2004 Toyota Rav4, driven by Leslie Kron, 69, of Pagosa Springs. Caryl’s vehicle then spun and collided with another oncoming vehicle, a 2008 Ford F-250, driven by 57-year-old Kellie Lewis.

Caryl died as a result of his injuries. His two passengers – TaLor Estrada, 24, of Arvada and a 1-year-old boy – were taken to Pagosa Springs Medical Center and later airlifted to a Denver hospital.

Kron and Lewis were also taken to Pagosa Springs Medical Center with serious injuries.

At the time of the crash, authorities did not believe drugs or alcohol were a factor because no physical evidence of illegal substances was found at the crash site.

But a toxicology test found Caryl tested above the presumptive limit for THC levels while driving in the state of Colorado.

While the limit is considered 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, Caryl tested at 9.2 nanograms per milliliter, said Colorado State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll.

Authorities now believe Caryl’s use of marijuana is the “most apparent human contributing factor” in the crash, according to an accident report.

While road conditions were icy and dangerous, Driscoll said Caryl exceeded a safe speed limit, which is different than speeding. Caryl was traveling 60 mph in a 65 mph zone in inclement conditions.

“He was going way too fast,” Driscoll said.

According to a GoFundMe page, Caryl and Estrada were traveling with their son from Colorado to New Mexico when the crash occurred.

“Our precious little baby is suffering from a broken arm, femur, clavicle and concussion,” the page says. “My sister (Estrada) has a large laceration to her liver, broken ribs, clavicle, arm, pelvis and five lumbar fractures.”

Attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful Thursday.

Jess Lewis, wife of Kellie Lewis, said Kellie Lewis suffered a cracked sternum, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a concussion. The couple recently moved to Pagosa Springs where Kellie Lewis is recovering.

“Her injuries were pretty serious,” Jess Lewis said. “It was very, very scary. But she’s alive, and we’re all thrilled she made it.”

Attempts to reach Kron were not successful Thursday.

Everyone involved in the crash was wearing a seat belt, according to the accident report.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

Jun 23, 2021
Crash leaves one dead, four injured near Pagosa Springs
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