A crash in the mountains of Colorado last week killed Spokane native Travis Bonnett, 47, and left his brother-in-law, developer Harley Douglass, with serious injuries.
The two men were on a guided tour of ghost towns and mines with a group of 13 other people from Spokane, said Lisa Bonnett-Douglass, Douglass’ wife and Bonnett’s sister. At around 2 p.m. Sept. 11, the Toyota Land Cruiser, a four-wheel drive SUV that Bonnett was driving, left a county road and plummeted down a ravine, according to a report from Gunnison County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Roberts.
Both men were ejected from the vehicle as it rolled. Bonnett, a 1988 Rogers High School graduate, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the sheriff’s department. Douglass, 55, lacerated his spleen and broke his leg, Bonnett-Douglass said, and had to be lifted out of the area.
“He was very, very lucky,” Bonnett-Douglass said of her husband. “The group that they were with was very well-equipped to handle this.”
Douglass is recovering at home after being airlifted from the scene to a hospital in nearby Grand Junction, Colorado.
Bonnett lived in Spokane until 1992 before moving to Vancouver, where he worked for a chemical company, his sister said. He is survived by his wife, Stacy, and three adult children: Trevor, 25; Jade, 23; and Ally, 18.
Bonnett had only recently been recruited to go on the trip, and it was Douglass’ first tour, Bonnett-Douglass said. The sheriff’s office is still investigating, but Bonnett-Douglass said it appeared at the site that the edge of the road gave way just as the two men were cresting a treeline.
“Several of the guys said the scenery where they were at, they had just come out of the trees into this wide, vast, top of the world view,” Bonnett-Douglass said. “He had this last, great heavenly view of earth.”
The initial scene report indicates Bonnett’s seat belt was still fastened after the vehicle came to rest, said Gunnison County Undersheriff Mark Mykol. The passenger-side seat belt, where Douglass was seated, had come unbuckled at the shoulder, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fastened at the time of the crash, Mykol cautioned.
Investigators said alcohol did not play a role in the crash.
Douglass is part of a family of developers that includes his father, Harlan, and brother, Lanzce. The family has been involved in some controversies, including a dispute with Spokane County over a legal settlement for a development in Mead. Harley Douglass is the developer behind a planned apartment complex in the North Indian Trail neighborhood that was successfully defeated by neighbors appealing to the Spokane City Council. That case is under legal review by the Washington Court of Appeals, said Douglass’ attorney, Steven Hassing.
The road the two men were traveling is notorious for tricky conditions, Mykol said.
“Some of these passes are very, very rough, steep and rocky. There’s not a lot of room,” he said. “The conditions could change very quickly.”
“I don’t know how anyone survived that, to be honest with you,” Mykol added.
After the crash, Bonnett-Douglass traveled to the hospital with Bonnett’s son. She said that, despite the loss, she was glad that her brother’s last moments were happy ones.
“We take great comfort in they were both doing what they loved to be doing, and were having an excellent time,” she said.
A service has been scheduled Sunday in Vancouver for Bonnett. There will also be a gathering in October for friends and family at the home of a relative in Spokane, Bonnett-Douglass said.
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