Each spring, especially during good weather, there are more visitors and predictably more traffic accidents. Last Thursday, March 19, two accidents occurred within a couple of hours of each other, one in Three Rivers and one in Sequoia National Park.
Sierra Drive accident— The more serious of the two accidents occurred near the intersection of Sierra Drive and the west end of Pierce Drive. Keith Franco, 25, of Exeter was driving his 2006 Toyota 4Runner eastbound on Highway 198 when he swerved left and crossed the center line.
When he reached the shoulder on the north side of the highway, the SUV went airborne, flipped, and plunged down a 12-foot embankment. When Franco’s mangled vehicle came to a stop in the adjacent vegetation, he was pinned inside the front seat with his head was sticking out of the driver’s side window opening.
Emergency personnel responded to the scene at approximately 3 p.m., within minutes after the accident was reported. Franco was extracted from the wreck, placed on a gurney, and examined at the scene.
The victim complained of pain in the chest and back and also had a laceration on his head. He was transported to Slick Rock Recreation Area where a Life Flight helicopter transported the injured motorist to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
The CHP officer at the scene reported that he found an open malt liquor container in the wrecked vehicle. When Franco was tested, his blood alcohol level was within the legal limit. He was subsequently cited for making an unsafe left turn, driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance, and an open container law violation.
Generals Highway wreck— Another vehicle accident was in the clearing stages 17 miles up the highway in Sequoia National Park when the Three Rivers incident occurred. In that incident, a 2013 Mercedes Benz Sprinter Sportsmobile became stuck in a culvert off the west shoulder of Generals Highway.
The driver, a 72-year-old male from New York City, told park rangers at the scene that a medical issue had caused him to veer off the road. The RV driver refused medical treatment from ambulance paramedics at the scene.
Because of the precarious perch of the vehicle, the first tow truck on the scene at 2 p.m. declined to pull out the ditched vehicle, advising rangers to call for a better equipped tow truck.
The second tow truck arrived at 6:30 p.m., and while trying to pull the RV out noticed a leak in the propane tank. A park ranger and the tow truck driver vented the propane tank; firefighters were on scene as a precaution.
The Generals Highway was closed for an hour after the propane leak was discovered. There were intermittent closures for at least another hour while the operator removed the RV from the culvert and towed it out of the park.