On Wednesday, May 7, Idyllwild resident James Sheahan, 53, lost control of his white 1992 Jeep Wrangler while driving west on Highway 74 between Valle Vista and Mountain Center. Sheahan and the Jeep plunged about 75 feet off the highway with the Jeep landing on its roof.
Sheahan, who was transported by ambulance to the Riverside County Regional Medical Center, has incurred major facial surgery. His wife, Kelly, expects him to return home this week. “The doctors called it a ‘mortal accident,’” she said gratefully.
The Jeep was unstable when it landed and Sheahan was hanging upside down, strapped by his seat belts. His faced was severely damaged and the gas tank was leaking, according to Kelly.
Several Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies and an officer arrived on the scene shortly after the vehicle went over the side and ensured that Sheahan’s Jeep did not tumble any further down the mountain.
Riverside County Mountain Battalion Chief Sean Dakin, also on the scene, confirmed that the action of the sheriff’s men was critical to protecting Sheahan from further danger.
First on the scene was Community Service Officer Rodney Weirich, who acted quickly. Sheahan was going into and out of unconsciousness, so Weirich kept talking to him, while holding the Jeep tightly to prevent it from rolling further.
Soon three deputies arrived and gave needed assistance, too. Deputies Carrasco, Schmitt and Kurtz were all instrumental in ensuring Sheahan’s situation did not become a tragedy, according to Sgt. Agcaoili.
These men smelled the gas and got Sheahan out of the Jeep before a potential fire ignited. Hemet Station Capt. Ray Wood said, “We are submitting the employees involved for a department life-saving award.”
According to Kelly, a vehicle coming up the Hill drove into her husband’s lane, hitting the Jeep, and causing him to drive off the highway.