AURORA, Colo. (CBS/AP) — The Colorado State Patrol says a sedan going the wrong way on a Denver-area freeway collided head-on with an SUV, and the drivers of both vehicles were killed.

Three minors who were riding in the SUV were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

The patrol says a Ford Taurus was traveling south in the northbound lanes of E-470 near Quincy Avenue at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday when it collided with a Chevrolet Yukon.

Troopers identified the victims as 89-year-old Odean Wheetley, who was driving the Taurus, and 37-year-old Grier Laughlin, driver of the Yukon. Both were from Aurora.

“There are really many things that can cause a driver to go the wrong way,” Trooper Heather Cobler with the Colorado State Patrol said. “It could be a medical condition, alcohol, not knowing the area; right now we’re still investigating all of these possibilities.”


Investigators believe Wheetley may have gotten onto E-470 in the wrong direction from Colfax Avenue, several miles north of where the accident happened. They’ve asked E-470 administrators to look at license plate cameras to see if that information can be confirmed.

Laughlin was president of Quintus Financial and director of the Colorado Water Polo Association. He was a graduate of Cherry Creek High School.

“We will miss his gregarious, fun energy and his passion for polo, for kids, and for his family,” a post on the Colorado Water Polo Association website said.

State Patrol also said Wheetley may have been reported missing sometime Sunday in Arapahoe County.

Neighbors at the Heather Gardens Senior Living Community where Wheetley lived said the news came as a shock.

“We’re stunned of course, we’re basically flabbergasted, she was a sweet lady, she made a difference and she’ll be missed,” a neighbor said.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (11)
  1. Jo says:

    There’s been too many drivers and passengers being killed! Please drive defensively! Be aware of your surroundings. This will save lives.

  2. Joe says:

    They should put one-way spikes on the ramps so if you are going the wrong way it stops the errant driver. I had the same thing happen to me only I was able to steer clear at the last second. The other driver was oblivious and it was around midnight.

  3. mel says:

    I am tired of hearing “medical condition”…if you have a condition then you should NOT be allowed to drive.

  4. bluesanta says:

    Some idiot nearly tagged me on Broadway Saturday evening. It was about 2 blocks north of I-25. Every one is flashing thier lights and honking thier horns and this FOOL still drives north against the traffic for at least 7 blocks! Luckly at 30mph the results would not have been as drastic as this. How can people be so oblivious to their surroundings when they are behind the wheel of a car?

  5. Bill E. Swimmer says:

    My heart goes out to Grier, and his family. We in the swimming community will always remember you.

  6. Marto says:

    If our parents are at a crossroads of not being able to drive, we need to take their licenses from them. The state is way to lenient and the family HAS to step in. A father is gone because of an elderly driver not able to operate behind a wheel anymore.

  7. KM says:

    Please remember the family and friends of the elderly woman as well. She was a good friend of my parents and they attended the same church..

  8. Cindi says:

    I agree with Marto, this could have been avoided had this elderly woman’s license been taken away. I am saddened that she died and that this father had to die with her, this is so sad for everyone, and not anything that this poor woman would have wanted to happen. At some point the children must step in since the state (apparently) doesn’t. No doubt this woman’s children, if she has any, are devastated by this avoidable tragedy.

  9. Pattie says:

    We need to install those strips of steel spikes on the off ramps of the highways so that if you go down the wrong way – your tires will blow. This would prevent the head-on collisions and the police would have the drunk drivers. The tragedies of the head on collisions seam to be increasing. We need to fix the problem.

  10. Jean says:

    What it comes down to is Mrs.Laughlin should not have had her husband ripped away from her with so many years ahead of them. I have met her, and she clearly has a void in her heart, and is full of sadness. There needs to be more laws regulating people’s capabilities when it comes to driving. To me, this accident is an eye-opener…”medical conditions” or “fog” are no excuse. An 89 year old woman driving the wrong way on an interstate is frightening to all who use the interstate on a daily basis. Inexcusable…