OAKHURST — Two people are dead and two others injured in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 49 in the Goldside area north of Oakhurst.
At 1:12 p.m., on July 30, CHP received reports of a head-on collision with injuries and lane blockage just south of Griffin Drive.
According to witnesses, a Jeep Cherokee owned by the Forest Service was southbound on Highway 49 when, for unknown reasons, the vehicle swerved across into the northbound lane and hit the curb on the opposite side of the road.
A Chevy 1500 pickup, driven by Lon Harry Rice, 74, from Mariposa, was northbound in the same location. When he saw the Jeep in his lane, he pulled the pickup to the left to try to avoid the collision. However, the vehicles collided in the middle of the highway and came to rest blocking both lanes of the road.
The accident was witnessed by a Madera County Sheriff’s deputy who stopped to assist, along with the Elk Mountain Hotshots. A strike team of MMU engines, which had just left the Ferguson Fire incident command post in Ahwahnee, came upon the scene moments later.
Firefighters and the sheriff’s deputy initiated CPR on Mr. Rice, but despite the best efforts of all involved, the driver succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Joan Leota Rice, 87, (Lon’s wife) was a passenger in the pickup and suffered major injuries. She was taken by ground ambulance to the landing zone at Vons and airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center. She later died from her injuries.
The driver of the Jeep, Judy Reynolds, a 69-year-old woman from Lebec, Calif., suffered moderate to major injuries and was transported by ground ambulance to a valley hospital.
The captain of the MMU strike team, Battalion Chief Mike Mills, applauded the efforts of the Elk Mountain Hotshots in taking quick and decisive action, saying they went above and beyond the normal scope of their mission. Th Elk Mountain Hotshots are assigned to the Ferguson Fire from the Mendocino National Forest.
The roadway was blocked in both directions for over an hour.
The accident remains under investigation.
Note: This article has been updated following notification of next of kin of those who died.