OAKHURST — A 74-year-old woman who crashed her car off the steep mountainside on Highway 41 south of Oakhurst last night was located and rescued this afternoon, at least 12 hours after she went missing.
Just after 4 a.m. this morning, the Fresno woman’s husband reported that his wife had been in an accident, but he didn’t know where, and the search began.
According to reports to the CHP, the couple live just off Shepherd Avenue in Fresno. The husband told the dispatcher that his wife has Parkinson’s and suffers from dementia.
Officers searched all along Highway 41 from Fresno out to Highway 145, and along Road 206 to Friant, but were unable to locate the woman or signs of an accident.
When daylight came, the search continued, now aided by a CHP fixed-wing aircraft that and a ping from a cell tower. However the cell locator only narrowed the search area down to about an 8,000 foot radius. But that put it in the area just south of Oakhurst.
The woman had been northbound just starting down from the top of Deadwood when she drove straight off the right side of the road, avoiding slamming into the abutment at the end of a guardrail by just inches. There were no skid marks in the roadway, indicating that she never hit the brakes.
Officers responded to the scene with the location given by the aircraft, and even then, spotting the car from the road was difficult.
They climbed down the near-vertical embankment, where they encountered the driver who was out of the vehicle and wanted to know “what took you so long?”
Miraculously, the woman was basically uninjured, with just some scrapes on her lower legs. She was evaluated by EMS and transported to Community Regional Medical Center as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, as officers looked over the wrecked Lexus, they spotted another vehicle some 50 yards farther along the densely-wooded slope. That one seems to have been there for quite some time.