NORTH FORK – Just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16, residents in the area of Road 223 and Pinchot Drive heard a loud crash, and raced outside to find a Chevy Suburban crashed into the embankment in front of their house.
The residents, who live just north of Pinchot Drive on a sharp turn, found a woman unconscious inside the vehicle.
A nearby neighbor, Monika Lain-Shaw, lives around the corner from where the crash happened, but said it was so loud it sounded like an explosion. She also hurried to the scene, and finding a blanket in the vehicle, used it to cover the woman while waiting for first responders to arrive. Temperatures were in the mid-20 at the time of the accident.
A 61-year-old North Fork woman had been driving her Suburban southbound on Road 223 when, due what CHP describes as her “high level of intoxication,” she drove off the right side of the roadway. The vehicle smashed into a 40-foot pine tree, breaking the tree into two pieces, one of which landed in the southbound lane.
The Suburban then went up the embankment, taking out a sign and a 5-foot carved wooden bear that had been cemented into the ground, according to the homeowners. The SUV came to rest on its wheels up against a large tree.
Cal Fire Engine 4255 responded from Rancheria Station, and 4270 from the Bass Lake Station, along with Madera County Engine 11 out of North Fork.
The residents and passers-by kept the woman as warm as possible until firefighters arrived to prepare her for transfer. Engine 8 set up a landing zone at Minarets High School, and Sierra Ambulance transported the driver to a waiting SkyLife helicopter. After tending to the patient, firefighters cut up the tree and removed it from the roadway.
The woman did not appear conscious at the time she was placed into the ambulance, and had suffered major injuries. She was transported to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where CHP says it was determined that she was heavily intoxicated. She was placed under arrest for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol, and due to her serious medical condition, was released to the custody of the hospital.
The driver was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.