NORTH FORK – A driver who swerved off the road near Thornberry last night may have spent hours unconscious in his car.
Joe Clarke, 65, of Bass Lake, called friends at about 8 p.m. on Friday, May 31, telling them that he was on his way to Coarsegold to pick them up. When he didn’t arrive, they began to worry.
At an unknown time, Clarke was southbound on Road 223 approaching Thornberry Road when he apparently drifted off the right shoulder, overcorrected, crossed back over both lanes of traffic and plunged down the steep embankment on the east side of the road.
His friends don’t know for sure, but they believe he left home right after hanging up with them.
At about 11:05 p.m., a call came in to 911. It was Clarke on his cell phone, telling the dispatcher that a deer had run him off the road. He also said that he was in his car which was over the side, and he didn’t think anyone could see him from the roadway.
Cal Fire Engine #4254 and Madera County Fire Squad #12 responded to the scene. They located the black Cadillac Eldorado on its roof about 30 feet down the embankment across from the turnoff to Thornberry Road.
Clarke just missed hitting a large tree, and indeed, no one would have seen him down there. He also would not likely have been able to get out of the vehicle.
The friends who had been waiting for Clarke then arrived on the scene, and told firefighters that he had some recently broken ribs.
Firefighters smashed the driver’s side window, and were able to extract Clarke from the car. They placed him onto a back board and carried him up the embankment where he then met with the CHP.
They administered the standard field sobriety test along with a breathalizer, and placed Mr. Clarke under arrest for DUI. He was released into the care of Sierra Ambulance who transported him for medical treatment.
Road 223 was closed briefly as the scene was cleared.