Chris Tomlinson © GJSentinel.com
A Ranger checks on a van Thursday that hangs with its rear wheels over the brink of a 180-foot precipice above Red Canyon in the Colorado National Monument.
Photo by Chris Tomlinson © GJSentinel.com
A van teeters on a cliff side in Red Canyon in the Colorado National Monument Thursday afternoon.
GRAND JUNCTION — An outcropping of rock in the Colorado National Monument may have helped save the life of a man whose van came within a few feet of plunging into a canyon.
Authorities say the 34-year-old man drove some 120 feet off Rim Rock Drive in an apparent suicide attempt at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, but he called 911 after the van became stuck on the rock overhang.
His van careened into Red Canyon onto a rock overhang about six miles from the east entrance. Officials at the scene said if the van had missed the overhang by 10 feet, it would have plummeted the entire 300 feet to the bottom of the canyon.
“This was definitely not an accident,” Park superintendent Joan Anzelmo said. “We feel strongly that he intentionally drove himself off Rimrock Drive.”
More than two dozen members of the Grand Junction Fire Department and Mesa County Search and Rescue secured the teetering van, then lifted the man to safety. He was trapped for about two hours before being airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital at about 6:30 p.m.
Anzelmo said "it is but for the grace of God or a higher power" that the man survived.
His name was not released.
The Daily Sentinel contributed to this report
GRAND JUNCTION — A Clifton man who drove his van off a cliff in Colorado National Monument in an apparent suicide attempt is wanted by authorities in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl.
A judge Thursday signed a $60,000 warrant accusing Daniel John Lyons, 34, 477 32 1/8 Road, No. 4, of sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child in a pattern of abuse and other felony counts.
Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said Friday that Lyons will be arrested upon his release from St. Mary’s Hospital.
Lyons’ condition wasn’t available for release to the media Friday. Hospital spokeswoman Samantha Moe said Lyons isn’t listed in the hospital directory. Lyons declined to comment when reached by phone in his room Thursday.
Lyons’ van dropped off Rim Rock Drive on Wednesday and tumbled about 120 feet into Red Canyon, where it snagged on a rock ledge about 170 feet above the canyon floor. Mesa County Search and Rescue crews rappelled into the canyon and rescued Lyons. Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said officials believe Lyons was trying to kill himself.
The incident happened less than four hours after investigators questioned him in connection with a series of sex assaults reported earlier this week.
The victim’s mother contacted the Sheriff’s Department on Monday. She told investigators that her daughter told her a few nights earlier that Lyons had molested her, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
The 4-year-old told investigators Lyons assaulted her five times. She said Lyons told her not to tell anyone because he would go to jail, the affidavit said.
A second young girl reported that Lyons had tried to assault her but that she didn’t let him, the affidavit said.
Lyons went to the Sheriff’s Department for an interview at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and investigators said he admitted to sexually assaulting the 4-year-old twice. An investigator wrote in the affidavit that he told Lyons he would be seeking a warrant for Lyons’ arrest.
Lyons left the Sheriff’s Department after the interview. He dialed 911 on his cell phone at 4:30 p.m. to report he had driven off the monument but survived.
Lyons has been arrested at least four times on the Western Slope since 1996 on charges including burglary, assault, harassment, trespassing, criminal mischief and driving while ability impaired, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.
The records show he pleaded guilty in 2004 to harassment and was sentenced to a year on probation. The disposition of the other cases was not immediately known.
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