Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Two drivers sustained only minor injuries Tuesday after a collision on U.S. 199 left one car in the ditch and sent the other floating down the Smith River.

According to California Highway Patrol, driver Cory Levitt, 22, of Crescent City, was northbound just south of Patrick’s Creek Lodge at 1:32 p.m. when he failed to navigate a curve and collided with the left front of an oncoming car, driven by Joan Merriman, 40, of Eugene, Oregon.

The collision sent Merriman’s car into the ditch. Levitt’s car hit several trees before going into the river, according to CHP reports.

Gasquet Fire Chief Nick Karanopoulos said U.S. Forest Service personnel were tending to Merriman, and neither was aware what had happened to the other car. According to CHP reports, the weather at the time was cloudy and rainy.

“The collision had shot his car out into the river,” Karanopoulos said, “It floated about 100 feet downriver before the driver was able to get himself out.” Karanopoulos said about 30 minutes had passed before Levitt was able to climb up the bank next to the highway and summon help.

“That’s when the call came in for a car in the river,” he said.

“He just had minor injuries,” said CHP Information Officer Brandy Gonzalez. “That guy was really lucky.”

Personnel from California Auto Image arrived to pull the car from the water. According to Karanopoulos, members of the Smith River Fire and Rescue were able to swim out to the car and connect cables so it could be lifted back onto the highway.

Fire personnel remained on scene until the vehicle was retrieved at about 6 p.m., Karanopoulos said.

Neither driver was cited on scene, which caused minimal delays, according to CHP reports. No passengers were in either vehicle.

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