OAKHURST — An accident on Highway 41 just south of Oakhurst this morning sent one vehicle crashing off the steep embankment, as the car that reportedly caused the accident drove away.
Just before 10:30 a.m., a 64-year-old Coarsegold man was northbound on Deadwood in a Jeep Cherokee when, according to several witnesses, was forced off the road near the 40 mph corner just south of Victoria Lane.
An Oakhurst woman who was also northbound directly behind the Jeep, said that there was a long line of cars headed south up Deadwood, and one of them – described as a black or very dark gray coupe – drifted several feet into oncoming traffic.
It then plunged off the near-vertical embankment, traveling over 150 feet before crashing into some huge boulders and coming to rest wedged in the rocks. (Red circle in photo shows location of the Jeep from the roadway).
Two cars behind the Jeep was an SUV driven by a 31-year-old man from the Netherlands, with his fiance in the passenger seat. After witnessing the Jeep go over the side, the man raced down the embankment to the crash scene to render aid to the driver.
“He was quite calm; far calmer than I was!” said the SUV driver. “He said he thought his arm was broken. He also said he just bought the Jeep two weeks ago, so it was brand new. ”
A Sierra Ambulance unit was passing by the location, so a paramedic and EMT were on the scene within minutes and were able to assist the driver in extricating himself from the wrecked Jeep.
Madera County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team was called out for a low-angle rescue, however firefighters and EMS personnel were able to bring the man up to the waiting ambulance, and he was transported to a Valley hospital.
Several witnesses had pulled over to the side of the road to assist if they could, and give their statements to CHP.
“The driver of the Jeep was a good driver,” said the woman who was right behind the wreck. “He saved the rest of us from what could have been much worse.”
No other vehicles were involved in the crash, although one witness said there was debris flying into other cars in the immediate vicinity.
Initial reports were that the vehicle that caused the crash was a black Prius. Witnesses at the scene described it as a “small sports car, either black or dark gray.”
One-lane traffic control was put in place for about 30 minutes as the scene was cleared, and later both lanes were shut down for about 45 minutes while the two tow truck operators set about the complicated task of bringing the Jeep up to the roadway.
The accident remains under investigation.