BASS LAKE – A single vehicle accident near Bass Lake today sent first reponders packing up and down a very steep bank to rescue a woman trapped in her wrecked vehicle.
At about 3:23 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 13, Donna Gould, 76, of Bass Lake, was eastbound on Road 222 just past Pettitt Drive in a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer. According to CHP on scene, she was just enjoying the scenery, took her eyes off the road and failed to negotiate a turn.
Witness Amanda Ralph was right behind Gould, headed up the hill just past the Pine Rose Inn, and says the woman was traveling at about 50 mph.
“Then we came to the curve, she just drove straight off the road,” said Ralph. “She didn’t turn when we got to the corner, she just kept going straight.”
The CHP confirms that there were no skid marks and no signs of braking. The vehicle crossed the westbound lane, crashed through the end of the guard rail, apparently went airborne for some distance, took out several small trees, and plunged over 100 feet down the steep embankment, coming to rest nearly upright and facing back up the mountain.
A witness told the CHP that they thought she was headed toward a driveway, since the line of travel was so straight.
Witness Amanda Ralph was traveling in a car with Alex Fuller, who jumped from the vehicle and ran down over the hill to help.
“He ripped off the sunroof trying to help her get out,” said Ralph. “That didn’t work, so he tore off the windshield wipers and tried to break the windshield.”
Fuller said that the driver was conscious and was talking to him, and he stayed with her until help arrived.
Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, Sierra Ambulance and CHP all responded to the scene. Firefighters removed the windshield of the Chevy, and used the Jaws of Life to make it possible to extract Gould from the vehicle.
According to CHP Officer Fox, the driver was conscious and actually pretty feisty, saying “just get me out of here, I wanna go home.”
She did, however, appear to be suffering from some broken ribs and a broken arm, and after being evaluated by emergency personnel, CHP helicopter H-40 was called in to assist in the rescue.
The helicopter hovered over the spot, lowering additional equipment needed for the evacuation, and then airlifted the woman out of the steep canyon and on to Community Regional Medical Center for treatment of major injuries.
There were pieces of the Chevy scattered down the side of the ravine, and Firefighters, EMS, CHP and Doc’s Towing operators all had their hands full hauling equipment up and down the very steep hill.
CHP put traffic control in place, but the road remained open throughout the 2-1/2 hours it took to clear the scene.