Back in 1993, the Chris Duarte Group was involved in a horrific accident in Colorado. After a gig in Aspen, they were on their way to Lincoln, Nebraska, when they slid on some black ice and were hit by a Freightliner truck at the intersection shown above. Here is the tale of the crash on Highway 2...


It was a dark and stormy night (really!) on February 17, 1993. There was snow on the ground and the temperature was a brutal 14 degrees below zero! The band, Chris Duarte, John Jordan and Paul Mills, were driving from a gig at the Double Diamond in Aspen, Colorado. Snow accompanied them along the way. John Jordan was at the wheel of a rented red Aerostar van as they passed through Denver and went north. Chris was riding shotgun up front and Paul Mills was asleep in the back seat. Driving east on 104th Avenue in Commerce City, just north of Denver, John slowed for a railroad crossing with a stop sign on the other side. After crossing the tracks the van slid on some treacherous black ice, going in slow motion through the stop sign at the bottom of the railroad crossing and out into the middle of Highway 2! Helpless, John watched horrified as a pair of large headlights approached rapidly! The northbound Freightliner truck slammed broadside into the van, right where Paul was sleeping, rolling it upside down where 100 feet later it ended up in a ditch.


Chris was thrown from the crumpled van and sustained a broken collarbone, punctured lung and spleen, and numerous cuts and bruises. John had a fractured leg and cuts and bruises, but was otherwise o.k. Paul Mills took the brunt of the crash. He was in a coma, his hard head having completely mangled the front end of the Freightliner truck. The driver of the truck was uninjured and immediately went for help at a nearby bar, the Silver Saddle. They were lucky to have been where they were, any further north and there would've been a good chance of them freezing in the ice-cold night. This was the furthest outskirts of town, beyond lay miles and miles of darkness. The band was taken in ambulances to Rose Medical Center in Denver. The next day I got a call from Cleve Hattersley, the CDG manager, and immediately left work and went to the hospital. I contacted Chris's brother, Bart, down in New Mexico and he hit the road for Denver. That evening I went home and got John some clothes (we're exactly the same size) and when I came back the #@!#!! cops were hauling him off to jail in his hospital gown!! Those assholes (pardon my French!) wouldn't even wouldn't even let him change clothes!!!! Some stupid Colorado law states if you are from out-of-state and involved in an accident where injuries are involved, you get to go to jail! Letting loose a string of obscenities at these bozos, they threatened to have me join him. Discretion being the better part of valor, I bit my tongue and followed them to the Adams County jail in Commerce City to bail John out. Later that night they finally let him go. The next day, Bart Duarte arrived and the three of us went to the salvage yard to get the equipment and money bag out of the van, at this point not knowing if everything was destroyed or not. We found out that the #@*!!# ghoulish towtruck driver had stolen the band's money bag, leaving them flat broke. (I hope the karma police caught up with this worthless piece of #@$!! in the end). We made our way out to the smashed van and pulled out the gear. Opening up each case, we found out that the instruments had survived, other than being covered in dirt and broken glass. The other equipment was relatively intact, other than Chris's vintage echoplex which was completely destroyed. As we got stuff out of the van, I noticed a blood-spattered postcard of Charlie Parker tucked into the roof above the driver's seat. John explained that Charlie Parker is the patron saint of traveling musicians (he certainly was looking out for the guys that night!). I took the guitars home and cleaned off the dirt and blood and broken glass (which was everywhere). They were safe and sound under the protective eye of the King so I worried not when I had to go back to work. Chris remained in the hospital for several days (and insisted that I bring him a guitar!) Donna and Deby, Chris and John's wives, drove up from Austin. John and Deby, drove on to Lincoln, Nebraska, to complete the trip as a point of pride. Fellow fans here in Denver passed the hat and Chris and Donna flew back to Austin. About a week later, Paul came out of his coma but didn't know who he was. I taped up a bunch of photos of him playing drums with the band, as well as tapes to listen to. Paul remained in the hospital and had to learn how to walk again, but eventually regained his memory and went back to Austin and later rejoined the band. Chris and John, proving they can take a shot, were back playing only a month after the accident! Chris got a Freightliner logo tattooed on his right shoulder shortly afterward. All things considered, it was a real miracle that the band came out of this alive.


P.S. This incident also gave rise to the name of the fanclub record label, Aeroliner Records (Aerostar + Freightliner)!