Winter conditions were partly to blame for Hill crashes over the last week, including one serious incident involving a felony DUI. California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Darren Meyer, the source of these reports, cautioned residents and visitors alike that winter conditions on the Hill can be dangerous and require extra measures of caution when driving.
At 10:06 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, David Barajas, 27, of Hemet, was driving a white 2000 F150 eastbound on Highway 74, ¼ mile east of Southfork Trail, when he encountered a shady section of the highway with patches of ice. Even though proceeding at a low speed of 35 mph, according to the CHP report, Barajas lost control of his vehicle, struck the mountainside and overturned. There were no passengers and Barajas was not injured in the crash. His vehicle was towed by Castellanos Towing of San Jacinto.
At 10:25 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8, David Salk, 70, of Idyllwild, was driving a white 2003 Nissan Pathfinder northbound on Highway 24, 3 ¼ miles north of mile marker 19, when he hit a patch of ice and snow on the road, causing the vehicle to collide with the mountain. Salk suffered minor injuries in the crash but declined transport. His vehicle was towed by Idyllwild Garage.
At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, Jose Carranza, 22, of Rancho Mirage was driving a silver 2002 Acura TL westbound on Highway 74 just west of Apple Canyon Road on an uphill stretch of the highway, when he made an unsafe turning movement, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. The vehicle struck a metal roadway edge marker, overturned and slid about 30 feet down an embankment.
There were three passengers. All suffered injuries. In the vehicle were front passenger Fernando Pichardo Jr., 26, of Rancho Mirage, back seat behind driver passenger Christy Ledezma, 22 (residence not noted in CHP report), and back seat behind front-seat passenger Francisco Magana, 28, of Palm Springs.
Carranza was cited at the scene for driving under the influence and was arrested. Carranza suffered minor injuries and was transported by Idyllwild Fire ambulance to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
Pichardo suffered major injuries and was transported by Mercy Air to Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley.
Ledezma was transported by Reach Air to Riverside University Health with life-threatening injuries.
Magana was transported by Idyllwild Fire to Desert Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
One of the patients being transported by Idyllwild Fire became combative in transit causing the ambulance to pull over at Paradise Corners. A Riverside County Sheriff’s Department car was in the area and responded to the scene at Paradise Corners, as did the CHP car that had investigated the crash site and followed the ambulance to Desert Regional Medical Center.
Meyer noted that with head injuries, it is not uncommon for patients to become unruly or combative and his report did not note which of the injured had become difficult.
In what Meyer characterized as snow incidents that are not always logged as traffic collisions, at 6:10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, a Honda was noted on its side just north of Vista Grande. CHP Officer Bell requested a flatbed for towing and noted solid ice at the scene. Cal Trans went to the scene to scrape and sand ice. There was no information identifying the driver in the CHP log other than it was a non-injury event.
Likewise, on Sunday, Feb. 10, two vehicles were seen stuck in snow conditions at 12:14 p.m. at Marion Ridge and Highway 243 in Pine Cove. The vehicles were noted by a CHP cruiser heading to another incident. When the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department patrol car arrived at the scene, the deputy was unable to locate the vehicles or document the incident.