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Driver in Main Avenue crash dies from injuries; co-workers mourn loss

Mario Garcia worked as a kitchen manager at Steamworks Brewing Co. in Durango
Mario Garcia, 30, a kitchen manager at Steamworks Brewing Co., died Monday from injuries he suffered in a head-on car crash Friday in the 1800 block of Main Avenue in Durango. (Courtesy of Chip Hosfeld)

Friends and co-workers are grieving the loss of a kitchen manager at Steamworks Brewing Co. who died earlier this week from injuries he suffered in a head-on crash Friday morning on Main Avenue in Durango.

Mario Garcia, 30, of Durango, worked at Steamworks for about five years, said Kris Oyler, CEO of Peak Food & Beverage, which owns the restaurant. News of the crash hit restaurant staff hard, so much so that Steamworks closed on Saturday, the day after the crash.

“Mario was always smiling, always in a great mood,” Oyler said. “He was a rock on our team and in our kitchen. He was part of our Steamworks family, and we all have a huge hole in our hearts from his passing. He is greatly missed, and we send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Chip Hosfeld, assistant general manager at Steamworks, said Garcia was a “simple guy in some ways.” He grew up in New Mexico and was a bull rider. He had a certain kind of humbleness and humility, but he worked hard and expected others to do the same, Hosfeld said.

“There’s 20 or so guys that were looking up to him as a big brother, a father figure, somebody that was helping them understand the borders of life as a young man,” Hosfeld said. “He was a mentor to a lot of those guys.

“There was nobody who had more quips than him, and he kept those boys in check and they appreciated it,” he said. “Everybody always says all the good stuff, and there honestly isn’t really anything bad to say about Mario.”

Garcia was taken to Mercy Hospital on Friday morning before being transferred to a hospital in Albuquerque. He was declared brain-dead last weekend, but doctors kept him alive to fulfill his organ donor wishes, said Cmdr. Jacob Dunlop, with the Durango Police Department.

The crash occurred at 9:04 a.m. Friday when Garcia’s blue Chevy Malibu drove head-on into a white Chevrolet Suburban in the 1800 block of Main Avenue, which is in front of Wendy’s restaurant, police said.

Two vehicles were involved in a head-on crash Friday morning in the 1800 block of Main Avenue in Durango. The driver of the blue Chevy Malibu, Mario Garcia, a kitchen manager at Steamworks Brewing Co., died from his injuries. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald file)

Garcia was traveling northbound but for some reason was in the southbound lane. There were no skid marks or swerve marks found at the scene. Police are investigating the circumstances leading up to the crash and whether drugs or alcohol played a role, Dunlop said.

Police said Garcia’s driving behavior coupled with “items found” in his vehicle raised the suspicion of impairment. But an anonymous caller who identified herself only as an employee at Mercy Hospital told The Durango Herald that lab tests showed no evidence of alcohol use involving the driver.

Dunlop said he is unable to comment about the anonymous caller. But he noted that investigators spoke with friends and family who were with Garcia the morning of the crash, and they, too, didn’t convey anything that would suggest Garcia was under the influence.

“I kind of stand by my statement: Driving the wrong way in a lane of traffic on Main Avenue is not normal behavior,” Dunlop said. “So again, the items found in the vehicle coupled with the driving behavior lead us to suspect it.”

The driver of the Suburban was identified as Justin Travis, 51, of Durango. His passenger was Genevieve Travis, 42, also of Durango. Both were taken to Mercy Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said. However, Justin Travis was airlifted to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood.

A hospital spokesman said Genevieve was treated and released from Mercy and Justin was in stable condition as of Wednesday at St. Anthony.

Efforts to reach the Travises were not immediately successful Wednesday.

shane@durangoherald.com

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