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10/24/2013 Dead driver and pinned passenger not found for six days

Both men have local ties; Koester remains in serious condition

Two men who previously lived in Silver Cliff were involved in an accident that killed one and left the other trapped for six days along Highway 50 west of Canon City.

Ronald Lee Mohr, 59, alledgedly died on impact. Richard Koester, 36, remains in critical condition in a Colorado Springs hospital. The accident was discovered last Thursday, Oct. 17, by a highway worker.

Both men had ties to Custer County and apparently had been dividing their time between Custer County and Canon City.

When neither of them arrived to their Cripple Creek destination by October 11, family members filed a missing persons report with the Custer County Sheriff’s Department.

According to reports, it was later learned that Mohr and Koester were westbound in a 1986 Ford truck on highway 50. When they were five miles west of Canon City, at mile marker 273, Mohr reportedly lost control of the pickup for a reason that is still under investigation. The vehicle went across the eastbound lane of traffic on a curve, slipped around a guardrail, and went headfirst into a 30 foot ravine. Neither Mohr nor Koester were wearing seatbelts.

"We know that they went airborne," said Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe. "Then they hit a dirt embankment on the truck’s nose."

Mohr apparently died on impact. The Ford was an older model without airbags. Reportedly, the steering wheel bent outwards and went into Mohr’s chest, killing him instantly.

Koester survived not only the initial impact, but the following six days of hell. Koester was pinned beneath the dashboard, and beside Mohr who had begun to decompose. Koester’s head was stuck at an angle against the roof of the truck, and with an arm out of the window.

"There was a propane tank in the truck bed," Bob Koester, Rick’s father and owner of B&D Automotive in Silver Cliff, told the Tribune this week. "At the speed they were going when they hit the bottom of that ravine . . . everything turns into a missile. The propane tank went through the back and pushed the roof up. That’s good, because if it hadn’t then my son might have had his head cut off."

On Thursday, October 17, Department of Transportation workers were doing routine maintenance on highway 50, west of Canon City, when they discovered the truck. Mohr was pronounced dead at the scene.

"When Flight for Life brought Rick to the hospital," Bob Koester said, "his body temperature was 71 degrees."

While Koester had been trapped, there had been a severe snowstorm and plummeting temperatures at night.

"He was covered in frostbite," his father said. "His feet were as black as my shoes, and blistered all over."

Koester’s injuries included a fractured elbow, a split up the middle of one femur, a broken jaw, and major frostbite.

"Doctors had to amputate both of his feet." Bob paused, looked straight ahead and rubbed his eyes with a quick hand. "They might take off some of his fingers, too. He’s covered in tubes."

Bob Koester explained that Mohr and Koester had been friends when they both lived in Indiana. When Koester moved to Colorado, Mohr followed. Mohr was also on disability because he was a diabetic.

"I know when they left that day," Bob Koester said, "Ronnie took no medicine with him."

Koester’s family, from all across the country, has flocked to the hospital where he is being treated in Colorado Springs, to be there when he wakes up. His dad, mom and stepmom, and his five siblings, are at a loss with what else they can do for him.

"The doctors have him mildly sedated," Bob Koester said. "He can nod and blink his eyes, but we aren’t sure what he knows."

Rick Koester does not have health insurance, which has been another point of worry for his family. In an effort to raise money for his medical expenses, the Koester’s have set up a donation account with First State Bank in Westcliffe.

"Our customers and friends have been more than supportive," said Linda Koester, Rick’s stepmom. She expressed that their whole family is very touched by how much people have been there during this difficult time.

"Rick’s surprising the hell out of me," Bob said with a smile. "He’s getting better every day. It’s a miracle."

-J.E. Ward

 
 
 
 
 
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