Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Shortly after a light rain soaked the county Tuesday, California Highway Patrol and area fire departments responded to four separate crashes — three on U.S. 199.

According to CHP Information Officer Brandy Gonzalez, the first involved three vehicles at about 4:45 p.m. Officers determined that a GMC Yukon was southbound near mile marker 2.2 on U.S. 199 when the driver lost control and sideswiped an oncoming minivan and also hit an oncoming Nissan Pathfinder. All occupants were OK, according to responding CHP officers.

Two more crashes occurred on U.S. 199 about an hour later.

Gasquet Fire Chief Nick Karanopoulus said his department responded with rescue engines to each scene. He said firefighters arrived at the first crash at about mile marker 8 to find a Ford Mustang over the embankment. Crescent City Fire was called in to assist.

“It wasn’t quite in the river,” Karanopoulus said, “but probably about 50 feet down the bank.”

Gonzales said the crash occurred around 5:45 p.m. and the driver of the Mustang said he lost control in a corner before going over the bank. The driver sustained minor injuries and was transported to Sutter Coast Hospital for treatment and evaluation. No passengers were in the car.

Within minutes, another crash occurred about a mile east of the location when a female driver lost control of her PT Cruiser in a corner. Her car hit the right embankment and flipped onto its side in the eastbound lane. No other people were in the car.

Fire Personnel from Gasquet and CAL FIRE stopped traffic in both directions for a short time. The female driver could be seen receiving medical care at the scene.

Gonzalez said the driver sustained minor injuries and was transported to Sutter Coast Hospital for treatment and evaluation.

Karanopoulus said due to the other crashes around the county, firefighters on U.S. 199 had to wait a while for a tow truck.

About the same time, a two-car crash on U.S. 101 sent two cars over the embankment at mile marker 16.03 near Damnation Creek.

According to Gonzalez, the crash occurred when a vehicle attempted to pass another and lost control, sending both over the embankment. While both female drivers sustained minor injuries, one is pregnant and was taken to Sutter Coast Hospital for precautionary evaluation, said Gonzalez.

Both Gonzales and Karanopoulus estimated that there have been 14 crashes on U.S. 199, west of the agriculture station in the past month.

“It seemed like it was happening every other day for a while,” Karanopoulus said. “We had 14 crashes in 19 days.”

He also said personnel from his department confirmed the highway was quite slick as they were responding to the crashes.

“They told me they came into a corner in the rescue (engine) and the back tires started to slide,” he said. “They weren’t going fast at all.”

Gonzalez noted that in years past, CHP used to respond to the sharp curve at mile marker 1.5 where crashes usually involved vehicles going over the bank.

“We haven’t had one there in years since Caltrans fixed the road there,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said CHP officers suggest drivers simply slow down when it starts raining.