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Deadly week on Colorado Springs-area roads claims six lives

By: Chhun Sun
July 30, 2017 Updated: July 31, 2017 at 7:22 am
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Black balloons and flowers were attached to a street sign Sunday at Union Boulevard and Buttermilk Circle where a motorcyclist died in a crash Saturday afternoon. The death was one of six on Colorado Springs-area roads since Thursday. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

An already tragic week on Colorado Springs-area roads turned deadlier Sunday with a sixth traffic fatality since Thursday.

The latest death occurred when a vehicle went off a bridge and crashed into a creek near U.S. 94 and Baggett Road in Calhan about 10:30 a.m., Colorado State Patrol said. The driver, whose name was not released, was the only person in the car and died at the scene.

Colorado Springs police also have not released the names of the five others who died in three crashes on Thursday and Saturday.

In the first seven months this year , there have been 22 traffic-related fatalities in Colorado Springs - 12 shy of last year's total, according to police. Lt. Scott Schwall told The Gazette in January that the city averages 25 to 30 traffic deaths a year.

"If we get above 30, that's not a good year for us," he said at the time.

The first in the recent spate of deadly crashes happened around 9:30 p.m. Thursday in east Colorado Springs. Three people died when a Honda van going north on Babcock Road was broadsided by a Jeep eastbound on Galley Road as the van went through the intersection, police said.

Killed in the crash were both occupants of the van, a 73-year-old woman and a 76-year-old man, and a 31-year-old man who was a passenger in the Jeep.

Early Saturday, a 23-year-old woman died when the Pontiac Grand Prix she was driving went off Fountain Boulevard just west of Chelton Road in southeast Colorado Springs, police said.

Firefighters pulled the woman from the car, but she died of her injuries at the hospital.

The fifth death in less than 48 hours came when a motorcyclist died after colliding with an SUV Saturday afternoon in northeast Colorado Springs police said.

The motorcycle was traveling north on North Union Boulevard around 2:15 p.m. and the SUV was making a left turn from Union onto Buttermilk Circle, police said. The motorcycle driver was not wearing a helmet and police said excessive speed may have been a cause of the crash.

Traffic fatalities have increased dramatically - 24 percent - in the past two years, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported. In 2016, crashes claimed the lives of 605 people, up from 547 in 2015.

Through last week, CDOT reported 303 fatal crashes in Colorado this year.

Earlier this year, Shailen Bhatt, CDOT executive director, attributed the rise in part to more vehicles on the state's roads as Colorado's population has grown. Still, he said the trend is cause for concern for law enforcement and traffic safety officials.

"Colorado is growing but that doesn't mean traffic fatalities must grow too," he said. "A lot can be done to mitigate the increase. For example, if everyone buckled up we could save over 60 lives per year."

Last year, El Paso County had 46 traffic fatalities - fourth highest behind Adams County, 60, Weld County, 56, and Denver County 54.

With the six recent deaths, 37 people have been killed in traffic crashes this year in El Paso County, according to CDOT's count.

"Fatal crashes continue to be a tragic ending for hundreds of people in Colorado each year." Scott Hernandez, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, said in a statement. "Every life matters. They matter to me, my troopers and the families suffering from these preventable tragedies. We encourage drivers to make good decisions, avoid distractions, and drive sober."

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