Fatal crash on Highway 96 highlights importance of wearing seatbelt

Skye Kinkade
Siskiyou Daily News

Siskiyou County has seen an increase in the number of deaths and serious injuries so far this year as a result of people not wearing their seat belts, said Yreka California Highway Patrol public information officer Greg Perkins.

The latest fatal accident happened Saturday night, Jan. 23 on Highway 96, when the unrestrained driver of a Dodge pickup went over an embankment and was ejected from his vehicle, Perkins said.

“Last year (Yreka CHP) investigated six fatal collisions, five involved unrestrained occupants,” Perkins said. “In the first four weeks of this year we are at half that number and 100% of the deceased have been unrestrained. I’ve been in this PIO position for four weeks and I already feel like a broken record with the seatbelt message.”

On Saturday, CHP dispatch received a call of a possible collision on Highway 96 near Savage Rapids, Perkins said. 

More:Early morning Highway 97 crash claims life of unidentified man

More:Passenger without seat belt ejected from I-5 rollover

“A party reported seeing a diesel truck go ‘flying by’ and then heard the loud sound of a traffic collision,” Perkins said. “The reporting party related it was dark and foggy and they were having trouble locating the vehicle over an embankment.”

After CHP officers arrived, they determined the driver of a 2000 Dodge 2500 truck was driving westbound on Highway 96, east of Seiad Creek Road when the truck to traveled off the north roadway edge, veered back across the highway and down a steep embankment on the south side of the road, Perkins said.

“The Dodge overturned and the driver was ejected as a result of the collision.  The driver was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel.”

Upon inspecting the vehicle, the investigating officer determined the driver was not using his seatbelt at the time of the collision.  The cause of the collision is still under investigation. 

On Jan. 19, the driver of a Ford F-150 died after he overturned his truck near the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden on Highway 97. The unidentified man, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle during the crash, died from his injuries, Perkins said.

Mount Shasta CHP officers found the unoccupied pickup about 150 feet away from the roadway's edge. After searching the area, officers located the driver nearby. Medical personnel on scene determined he was dead, Perkins said.

On Jan. 14, three people were seriously injured in a rollover accident on Interstate 5. Michael Chandler, 38 of Weed, was driving a white Kia Rio northbound on I-5, south of Louie Road just before 9:30 p.m. when he lost control and ran off the road into the center median, where the car overturned “multiple times,” said Perkins.

A passenger in the back seat was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle, Perkins said. Chandler and a second passenger also sustained major injuries.

More:Three Etna teens injured, one seriously, in rollover crash

More:Pedestrian dead after being hit by car on Yreka's Main Street

And in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, the passenger in a Toyota Prius died when driver Irfan Sarwar of San Pablo hit a parked big rig on Interstate 5. Sarwar was driving southbound on I-5, south of Montague Road at 70-75 miles per hour, Perkins said, when he struck the Freightliner, which was parked on the west shoulder of the onramp.

“Temperatures were in the freezing range and CHP believes that the roadway may have been slick during initial impact,” Perkins said.

The truck driver, who was asleep in the berth during the collision suffered no injuries.

The Toyota then veered off the road's western edge and continued westbound across the Montague Road to southbound I-5 onramp, colliding with other tractor trailers parked on the shoulder, according to the CHP.

Sarwar was placed under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and was then released to Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka for treatment.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.