An autopsy found Kari Chopper was not intoxicated at the time of the Legacy High School bus crash. Her widower has a theory.

Josh and Kari Chopper. (Courtesy Jenna Rodgers)

Josh Chopper was right about his late wife.

Josh and Kari Chopper. (Courtesy Jenna Rodgers)
Josh and Kari Chopper. (Courtesy Jenna Rodgers)

He was positive that Kari Chopper had not been using drugs or alcohol before the bizarre and awful crash that killed her. An autopsy released today found no trace of substances in her system, according to KDVR.

Her widower, Josh Chopper, read the painful details of the report, but he walked away relieved.

“I was actually relieved to know that everything that I knew was in that report – that my wife has never drank alcohol, she’s never smoked, she’s never done drugs,” he said.

Chopper was the driver of an Adams 12 Five Star Schools bus that inexplicably collided with a pillar at Denver International Airport on Sept. 11. She was one of several drivers who had just picked up the football team from the airport.

For reasons unknown, her bus looped back around to the terminal, and then exited the road just before the collision, leaving no signs that the driver had braked or tried to avoid the impact. She was killed and several football coaches seriously injured.

Initially, Josh Chopper believed his wife may have been suffering a medical emergency that led to the collision. The autopsy leaves open the possibility, noting that she had an enlarged heart and could have fainted before the crash, as the Denver Post reports, but it says the theory can’t be confirmed.

Now Chopper has a new theory, based on conversations with a detective, other bus drivers who were at the scene and his own recent visit to the airport.

“This is what I honestly, really feel happened: She exited the terminal. She was trying to exit to Tower Road, Peña Boulevard, but she could not get over, from what the other bus driver told me. She stayed in that lane so that she could circle back around,” he said.

She ended up in a lane approaching a bridge near the main terminal, he said, where she spotted a sign that warned of low clearance. Knowing her bus was too tall, he theorizes, she slowed and exited the road to the right. If she had applied her brakes steadily, this may not have left a mark on the pavement.

“When she pulled off the road there, there was about a three to a six inch straight drop. When you hit that soft dirt with 45,000 pounds, there is no steering. You couldn’t steer away from that cement pillar. She couldn’t stop in time,” Chopper said.

The bus did not have any obvious mechanical problems prior to the crash, according to police. The question of Chopper’s state of mind and intentions at the time of the crash seem essentially unanswerable.

Chopper expects the Denver Police Department to release its report within a week.

“It’s just merely an accident. There was no alcohol, drugs, no sleeping at the wheel, anything like that. It makes me happy to know that my wife can rest in peace,” he said. And he expects that tonight he will get his first real night of sleep in a month and a day.

A fundraiser for the Chopper family has raised about $28,000. They are looking for a permanent home and struggling to pay off bills while they wait for the insurance company.


Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email