One person was killed and five others were seriously injured – including two members of the Pleasant View Fire Department – in a head-on crash Saturday morning near the top of Hesperus Hill on U.S. Highway 160 west of Durango.
The crash occurred at 6:08 a.m. about a mile east of the Hesperus post office where a silver 2020 Ford F-150 traveling westbound drifted across the centerline and struck a white 2004 GMC Sierra that was pulling a trailer, said Sgt. Nathan Lyons, with the Colorado State Patrol.
The crash occurred in a 65 mph zone, and law enforcement found no skid marks by either vehicle.
“Everything came to rest almost precisely at the point of impact,” Lyon said. “The size of the vehicles, pretty much as soon as it happened they stopped right where they were. … Nobody saw it (coming).”
The Sierra was occupied by four people, all from Pleasant View, including Angela Rohwer, chief of the Pleasant View Fire Department, and Heidi Rohwer, EMS captain of the fire department.
Their nephew, Zachery Berg, was also in the vehicle. So was the Rohwers’ mother, Judith Rohwer, 73, who died in the crash, Lyons said.
All four were headed to the Durango Farmers Market, where they sell various plants and seedlings from Rohwer’s Farm, he said.
The F-150 was being driven by Lee Desmond, 54, of Shonto, Arizona, according to State Patrol.
Desmond reportedly fell asleep and drifted into oncoming traffic, Lyons said. His brother, Roy Desmond, 46, of Page, Arizona, was in the passenger seat.
The Desmond brothers were apparently returning home from a construction job in Casper, Wyoming, Lyon said.
“So this was their return trip on a Friday night, basically, to get home to Arizona,” Lyon said. “They were driving straight through switching off when they were tired and somehow did not switch off this time and he (Lee Desmond) actually fell asleep.”
All five who survived the crash were taken to Mercy Hospital in serious condition, according to an incident report.
Angela Rohwer has been released from the hospital, but her sister, Heidi, was flown to a Denver-area hospital with “extensive injuries,” said Tracy Hartle, district administrator of the Pleasant View Fire Department.
According to the Durango Farmers Market Facebook page, Heidi has undergone one surgery on her ankle and is awaiting at least two more surgeries on her hip and pelvis later this week.
Berg was in “stable” condition Monday afternoon at Mercy, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The Pleasant View Fire Department northwest of Cortez in Montezuma County is an all-volunteer organization, and the crash has rattled the membership and community, Hartle said.
“Heidi and Angela have been very active on our volunteer fire department,” she said. “We’re a very small, tight-knit community, and anytime something like this happens it really affects everybody.”
She said the Rohwer sisters “radiate with joy,” and their mother was a “bundle of joy, as well.”
“They were just loved by all, and they were just wonderful people that everybody loves,” Hartle said.
Hospital records showed Lee Desmond was no longer at Mercy on Monday afternoon, but his brother remained in the hospital in “stable” condition, a spokeswoman said.
Lee Desmond was served a summons on suspicion of careless driving causing death and three counts of careless driving causing injury, Lyon said.
No drugs or alcohol are suspected.
“Unfortunately, fatigue is a real thing,” Lyon said.