COARSEGOLD – Power was knocked out to a swath of homes along Road 400 near Yosemite Lakes Park on Saturday, Feb. 23, when a pickup crashed into two power poles.
Tamara Gurgel, 50, of North Fork, was driving a Ford Ranger pickup north on Road 400 at what is presumed by CHP to be an unsafe speed. For unknown reasons, she crossed over to the left side of the road, went off the shoulder and hit a power pole and a mailbox.
The pickup was traveling at a high enough rate of speed that it continued northbound, even after it left the roadway, taking out 75 feet of barbed wire fence and crashing into a second power pole, splintering the base and sheering the pole in half.
“We heard the crash,” said Wendell Lancaster whose home is about 500 feet off the road. “We heard the tires squealing, and a noise that sounded like a hurricane. Then we saw blue flashes and heard a loud banging noise when she hit the pole.”
Wendell and his son Reese have lived on the property for a long time, and say that people are always driving too fast, and accidents along that stretch of road are nothing new.
After calling 911, father and son went out to the scene to check on the driver. She had blood on her head and face, but was conscious. Engines 8 and 10 out of YLP were dispatched to the accident, however, the power lines presented a dangerous situation as emergency personnel attempted to extract Gurgel from the wrecked pickup.
PG&E was called out and power was shut down. Gurgel was transported to a landing site at the Chukchansi Casino where she was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center with unknown injuries.
The road remained open in both directions with traffic control in place, while crews worked to clear the scene.
The accident happened at about 10:40 p.m. Gurgel was arrested for DUI, according to CHP.
PG&E worked through the night to restore power to homes in the area.