Driver in accident learned ‘scary lesson’

Gary E. Salazar

— A 20-year-old Steamboat Springs man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges stemming from a May traffic accident in which his best friend suffered a head injury and had to be flown to a Denver hospital.

Trevor Don Kochenower pleaded guilty to reckless driving endangering safety, a class three misdemeanor, and driving while ability impaired for the accident that injured Eric Don Bell, 20, of Hayden.

Bell spent three days in a Denver hospital for the head injury and has made a full recovery.

Kochenower faced a vehicular assault charge, but the felony was dismissed because of Bell’s recovery and his wishes, Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Wittemyer said.

“The victim is Kochenower’s best friend,” she said. “Thankfully, he is doing fine, and he will not have any long-term effects because of the crash. He feels strong what happened was an accident and a terrible mistake.”

Bell was injured when Kochenower lost control of a 1997 Chevrolet Blazer at about 7 a.m. on County Road 129, just north of Clark.

The men were returning from a camping trip when the sport utility vehicle went off the road, rolled and ejected Bell.

“They partied a little too late into the night,” Wittemyer said. “I think they learned a pretty scary lesson.”

Investigating officers determined the crash was caused because Kochenower was driving too fast and he was intoxicated.

At the time of the accident, Kochenower had a blood-alcohol content of 0.05, which is right at the illegal driving limit in Colorado.

Because of the guilty plea to the endangering safety charge, Kochenower could be sentenced to six months in the Routt County Jail and fined as much as $750.

For the driving while impaired conviction, he could be fined as much as $500 and ordered to perform 48 hours of community service.

Kochenower will be sentenced by Routt County Judge James Garrecht at 9 a.m. Aug. 29.

Kochenower’s attorney, Michael O’Hara, expects for his client to be sentenced to 10 days in the county jail. The jail term was part of the plea agreement he worked out with Wittemyer.

Before Kochenower left the courtroom, Garrecht told the young man of a case where a man killed his best friend in an alcohol-related crash.

“You’re lucky your friend is alive and doing well,” Garrecht said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.