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6 Dead After Fatal Accident

KIT CARSON, Colo. (CBS4) -Six people died Thursday morning in a van crash on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, including a Cheyenne County Sheriff’s deputy.

The crash happened at about 7:30 a.m. in a construction zone on U.S. 287, about two and a half miles south of the town of Kit Carson. That town is about 130 miles southeast of Denver. At noon officers with the Colorado State Patrol were still on the scene. A 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 van and a 2001 Peterbilt tractor-trailer truck were involved.

kit carson crash1 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Copter4 flew over the collision scene near Kit Carson on Thursday. (credit: CBS)

State troopers said the semi was stopped in traffic southbound on 287 when the van crashed into the rear of the cattle trailer.

The road where the accident happened reopened at about 2:30 p.m., seven hours after the collision occurred.

howard mitchell 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Howard Mitchell (credit: CBS)

“Howard is a very cautious driver, as a county deputy, he’s been involved in several construction accidents and he’s well aware of what can happen,” said family friend Karen Nordquist.

The driver of the van, Howard Mitchell, was killed, along with five children in the vehicle, ranging in age from 4 to 17 years old. Mitchell, 57, is a Cheyenne County Sheriff’s Deputy. He was off duty at the time of the crash and taking the children to school in Eads.

andy 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Andy Ackinson (credit: CBS)

Mitchell and all the children killed were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

austyn 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Austyn Ackinson (credit: CBS)

The children are identified as 11-year-old Austyn Ackinson, 4-year-old Tony Mitchell, 10-year-old Tayla Mitchell, 13-year-old Andy Dawson and 17-year-old Jeremy Franks.

All of those killed lived at The Mitchell House, a home for adopted and foster children run by Mitchell.

tayla 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Tayla Mitchell (credit: CBS)

“They were a very dedicated, loving family, had foster kids for many, many years. They were great parents,” said family friend Launa Deech.

Seven others riding in the van were hurt. None of the following children were wearing seatbelts. Brandon Rollins, 13, was rushed to Children’s Hospital in Denver. His condition is not being released. Daniel Ortega, 16, was taken to Swedish Hospital and is in serious condition. TJ Mitchell, 18, is also at Swedish in critical condition. Robert Miller, 15, and Scott Fua, 17, were both rushed to Swedish Hospital in serious condition.

William Palmer, 14, who was wearing a seatbelt, was taken to Keefe Memorial Hospital in Cheyenne Wells with minor injuries.

The 3-year-old who was injured remains at Children’s Hospital. That child’s condition is not being released.

The driver of the semi suffered serious injuries.

The cause of the crash is being investigated. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash.

mitchell truck1 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Flowers and signs were placed on Howard Mitchell's personal vehicle after the crash. (credit: CBS)

Mitchell’s vehicles, including his patrol SUV, were decorated with flowers and signs in his memory.

deputy vehicle 6 Dead After Fatal Accident

Flowers were placed on Howard Mitchell's patrol vehicle after the crash. (credit: CBS)

The Eads School District RE-1 on its website posted a message about the tragedy:

“It is our understanding that the Mitchell family, with who we are all close, has been affected, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

School officials said they have assembled a team of counselors and are making them available to anyone affected by the tragedy.

  • Heavenbound

    I have had a hard time keeping my composure since learning of this horrific accident today. There was a Youtube video about the Mitchell House showing all of the children they cared for and thinking of them still makes me want to burst into tears. I pray for the all of the children and the people who took care of them. Rest in peace you beautiful angels and I wish comfort and healing to the survivors.

  • Robert Gift

    Blinded by the sun?
    Fell asleep athe wheel?
    Skid marks?
    Condolences to Mrs. Mitchel and friends.

  • Susan M. Goerke

    I am so very sorry for these children and deputy Mitchell. What an awful tragedy. My heart goes out to the entire community.

  • amanda!

    my heart and prayers go out o all that are ffected by this.. truly a sad story !!!

  • Chris Durr

    I knew the family I will miss Howard and the children dearly

  • Brady Buum

    Highway 287 has got to be one of the deadliest roads in Colorado. One of my really good friends was killed just south of Hugo on 287 due to the poor construction on that highway. My prayers go out to everyone affected.

  • Deffender of Children

    I hope Mitchell burns in hell! No seat belts on those children?

  • dear heart

    Why did the Mitchell family have to drive 20 miles everyday to a school in Eaton CO?
    I understand there is a school in Kit Carson, did the city council not allow foster children at their school?
    Did anyone check that the Semi had working brake lights?
    Colorado has a Seat belt law and we should all buckle up.
    My heart, prayers and tears go out to Mrs. Mitchell and her remaining children.

  • Saddened

    My sincerest thoughts and prayers– my heart just breaks for this family! Such a tragedy! Defender of Children… there are no words for you that I can publicly write here. What a callous remark! May you do the same.

    I’m wondering if these large 15 or 16 passenger vans actually have seat belts for everyone? This was an older vehicle according to reports. And Mr. Mitchell was a dedicated law enforcement officer. I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t enforce the seat belt law for his own children if he could. I’ve read that the law does not require seat belts in some of these larger vehicles, much like how they are not required on a school bus. Our school buses in my district do not have seat belts and I would assume the same is true for just about every school district across the country. (Although modifications were made when one of our smaller buses needed to transport several children still required to be in car seats.) I have been a huge seat belt advocate since the moment my children were born and it still just boggles my mind, despite the “high backed seats”, that belts are not required on vehicles that carry millions of our children each and every school day.

  • maynadrew

    the children attended Eads school because Kit Carson wouldn’t allow them in their school several years ago. “defender of children”, please keep in mind that the family and friends of these children are reading your insensitive comments. Did you take these children in, or did you just ignore them like everyone else? You cannot judge a man’s life by his death. The Mitchell’s do God’s work. Please pray for the survivors and refrain yourself from making judgmental comments. Thank you

  • cas

    The Mitchells are wonderful people! How dare you, anyone who has a negative thing to say about people they have never heard of until this tragedy occured!!! And thank you maynadrew, their kids are their life:adopted, biological, or fostered….. I am completely outraged as to why someone would think it would be ok, after the family has lost 6 of its members to write such horrible things! This havs made such a positive influence and change in all their kid’s lives!! “defender of children” you should be ashamed of yourself. This community, as well as surrounding communities, will continue to stand by and support the Mitchell’s

  • Debra McMahan

    I am sitting here in my home in Missouri, reading all the bad things about Howard Mitchell,.You people are judging him, how many children have you fostered.I am a ex-foster parent I had to quit due to health reasons. And I have been here getting one of the foster childrens biological prents ready to come home to bury his 10 year old son Tony mitchell that was in that accident. This goes out to all the people who are or never have been foster parents.DO NOT JUDGE US UNTIL YOU HAVE WALKED IN OUR SHOES. TONY YOUR DADDY LOVES AND MISSES YOU DEEPLY…..

  • Michelle

    I was appalled at the absolute audacity of the ignorant remark, posted by ‘defender of children’. It’s really amazing, how shameless people can be in a public forum. But, on second thought, anonymity is for such as they.

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