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Man in fatal crash was a Gold Star father

Ignacio man cited with careless driving causing death

A 72-year-old Littleton man in town for Gold Star Parents Weekend died Friday in a head-on crash near the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

The crash occurred about 7 p.m. on Colorado Highway 172 near mile marker 19, just west of County Road 309, which leads to the airport.

A red 2002 Dodge pickup driven by David Lemon, 52, of Ignacio was heading west toward Durango when he crossed the center line and ran head-on into a white 2008 Toyota Rav4 being driven by John Vandegrift, said Capt. Adrian Driscoll with the Colorado State Patrol.

“It looks like traffic slowed in front of him (Lemon), so he veered into on-coming traffic to avoid a rear-end and went head-on with Vandegrift,” Driscoll said.

Vandegrift died at the scene of the crash, said La Plata County Coroner Jan Smith.

Lemon was cited with careless driving causing death.

No drugs or alcohol are suspected, Driscoll said.

Vandegrift was in town attending the Colorado Gold Star Parents Weekend for families who have lost a child since 2000 while serving in the military.

Vandegrift’s son, 1st Lt. Matthew Ryan Vandegrift, 28, died April 21, 2008, from injuries he suffered from a makeshift bomb that exploded in Basra, Iraq, according to a Denver Post article.

In 2010, a high school near Austin, Texas, was named after Matthew Vandegrift, who grew up and went to school in the area.

Both vehicles had passengers: A 9-year-old boy was in Lemon’s truck, and John Vandegrift’s wife, Mary Jane Vandegrift, 67, was in the Rav4. Neither passenger suffered life-threatening injuries.

Everyone involved wore seat belts except for Lemon, Driscoll said.

The highway was closed from 7:40 to 9:24 p.m., according to a spokeswoman with the State Patrol in Denver.


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