A La Plata County man has turned himself in on an arrest warrant in connection with the death of professional cyclist Benjamin Sonntag.
Cordell Schneider, 19, is expected to be charged with vehicular homicide as part of a reckless driving incident that resulted in Sonntag’s death March 4 in rural southwest La Plata County, said 6th Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne. The charge is expected to be filed Friday.
“We want the community to know we’ve been taking this very seriously from the start,” Champagne said. “We’ve had tremendous support from law enforcement officers. Now, we will let the criminal process play out and hope to bring justice to the situation.”
Schneider was driving a 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck south on County Road 105 shortly after noon March 4 when he struck and killed Sonntag, a 39-year-old professional mountain biker from Durango, according to a crash report, which is labeled “preview.”
The report indicated Schneider was traveling an estimated 65 mph in a 35 mph zone on the dirt road west of Marvel. Schneider lost control of the truck and “began to yaw in a clockwise rotation,” according to the report.
The Colorado State Patrol indicated Sonntag, 39, was riding north at an estimated speed of 20 mph on his Specialized S-Works Tarmac bike. He made maneuvers to try to avoid Schneider before being struck about 1½ feet from the west edge of the road.
Sonntag, originally from Germany but who had called Durango home since 2007 when he came to Fort Lewis College to join the cycling team, was thrown about 75 feet before hitting the ground in the middle of the road. He then tumbled 52 feet on the road, coming to rest on the east side of the road, according to the crash report. He was pronounced dead on scene.
Schneider continued to travel south an estimated 225 feet, went down a steep creek embankment and hit a tree before coming to rest on his side in the middle of Cherry Creek. He was treated and released from Mercy Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Drugs and alcohol were not suspected.
Champagne said the District Attorney’s Office worked closely with Colorado State Patrol throughout the investigation. He said the coronavirus pandemic did slow the process.
“There were some investigative materials we were working to acquire,” Champagne said. “What delayed us with forming charges, a lot of it has to do with accident reconstruction information and the evidence that goes into that type of project. When dealing with this type of case, as much detail we can possibly get regarding the events that led to Mr. Sonntag’s death are helpful and necessary. Working with some outside agencies, some information was slow to arrive, mainly due to COVID-19. That delayed the charges.”
Schneider was booked into La Plata County Jail on Saturday and released on a personal recognizance bond.