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Drunken driving suspect makes wrong turn onto railroad tracks

Durango police find SUV high-centered on D&SNG right of way

A Colorado man is accused of drunken driving early Sunday when he took a wrong turn and headed south on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks in downtown Durango.

The 29-year-old suspect, of Peyton, which is northeast of Colorado Springs, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, reckless driving and being in possession of brass knuckles, which are considered an illegal or dangerous weapon in Colorado, said Durango Police Department Cmdr. Deck Shaline.

It is believed the man turned onto the railroad tracks from Seventh Street and traveled south for a short distance before his white sports-utility vehicle became high-centered on the tracks.

Shortly after 2 a.m., an officer was driving in the 600 block of Narrow Gauge Avenue and spotted the stranded vehicle with the suspect in the driver’s seat, Shaline said. It was not immediately known if the man was attempting to free his vehicle from the tracks when the officer spotted him.

The officer made contact with the man and observed signs of possible intoxication, Shaline said.

According to an arrest affidavit, the driver said he was trying to get to Bayfield and was unfamiliar with Durango. He later said he was trying to get to a Denny’s restaurant. The driver also said he saw a no-turn sign but “turned on the wrong side apparently,” according to the affidavit.

The officer noted the intersection has four one-way signs, two railroad crossing signs and one do not enter sign.

The officer reported an odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage coming from the driver and asked him how much he had to drink. The driver admitted to having one drink at a local bar.

The officer asked the driver to perform voluntary field sobriety tests, which the driver agreed to do. The driver subsequently failed the field sobriety tests, according to the affidavit.

The driver refused to submit to a chemical test and was booked into the La Plata County Jail.

The vehicle appeared to have undercarriage damage and was leaking fluids, police said. The railroad was notified of the incident, but there was no apparent damage to the railroad tracks, Shaline said. The vehicle was towed off the tracks.

Several vehicles have become stuck on the railroad tracks after making wrong turns onto the tracks during the winter months, when snow covers the tracks, Shaline said. It is less common for suspected drunken drivers to do the same thing, but it does happen, he said.

“We've definitely had it,” he said. “I just can't tell you with what frequency.”


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