Details few on December crash that leaves Montrose coroner unable to perform duties

Thomas Canfield, 82, recovering at home; incident still under investigation

A "Montrose" sign greets travelers as they enter the Montrose city limits from the East. (Chuckcars via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Montrose County Coroner Thomas Canfield sustained injuries in a December car crash that left him unable to perform his duties, but local law enforcement and county authorities have released few details about the incident and his condition.

Canfield continues to recover at home, after spending several weeks at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, said a Montrose County administrative assistant/deputy coroner who asked not to be identified.

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Canfield was in a one-car crash on Dec. 11 in the 14600 block of 6720 Road in Montrose, according to a police report.

Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said there was no arrest or citation given concerning the crash, which occurred at 12:23 p.m. Neither drugs nor alcohol impairment were suspected. The police report indicates the crash occurred on Canfield’s 82nd birthday.

“The cause of the accident is still under investigation,” Hall said. “We’re waiting for him to recover to the point where we can speak to him.”

Montrose County Coroner Thomas Canfield.
Photo by Barton Glasser

The responding officer reported the car had veered off into the east lane, went off the road, and ended up hitting a root of a tree, before striking another tree head on, causing the vehicle to spin 180 degrees to face the other direction. The officer “observed a male party up against the passenger side window with a large laceration to the forehead.”

Hall said he could not say more regarding the coroner’s injuries.

The coroner’s office has not issued a news release regarding the incident or Canfield’s status and will not likely do so “for a while,” as it was “letting him recover,” said the administrative assistant. “There’s not much information that’s been given out from the family or the county,” she said.

Reached by phone, Canfield said only that he is recovering. A person in the background was heard to say the reporter’s name and identified her as a reporter, and said, “You don’t want to talk to her.” Asked if the person was his wife, Canfield said, “It is none of your business.”

Montrose County spokesperson Katie Yergensen confirmed that no further information was available regarding the coroner’s medical status.

Yergensen acknowledged that because Canfield is a public official there is interest for more information regarding his crash and condition but said he also “deserves privacy.”

“There are a large number of deputy coroners, at varying levels, who are assuming duties that Dr. Canfield typically does” while he recovers from his injuries, she said.

Canfield was Montrose County chief deputy coroner for 24 years. He has served as the elected coroner since 2007.

In 2019, Canfield was among several defendants in a lawsuit brought by 64 people concerning Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose. Canfield’s attorneys said in a dismissal motion that he had been falsely linked to an alleged “scheme” to illegally obtain and dispose of body parts, reported the Montrose Daily Press.

On Nov. 7, 2019, District Judge Mary Deganhart dismissed the case against Canfield, saying “a public official is immune from suit under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act unless his or her actions were willful and wanton and the cause of the injury asserted.” The judge ruled that affidavits filed in the case did not prove his actions caused the plaintiffs’ injuries, reported the Montrose Daily Press.

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