Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Two people walked away from a rollover next to the Smith River on Friday, the latest of many traffic collisions on U.S. 199 in recent months.

Gasquet Fire Department Chief Nick Karanopoulos said at about 6:30 p.m., two vehicles were disabled by a rockslide at mile marker 13, an area known locally as Shady Bend. He said while the two vehicles were stopped to inspect for damage, a third — a Chevy Blazer — came from the west and apparently didn’t see the slide area.

The Chevy Blazer hit the rocks and careened off the north side of the road, coming to rest down the bank on its roof about 10 feet from the river’s edge.

Karanopoulos said the area has a guardrail, which the vehicle missed before rolling down the bank.

He said the male and female occupants of the vehicle were OK.

Karanopoulos said his department began to notice an increase in the number of crashes and fire department calls on U.S. 199 back in October. In mid-October, Karanopoulos reported his department had responded to 14 crashes in 19 days, but has since lost count on ensuing crashes.

“It seemed like there was one every other day,” Karanopoulos said, noting it would be difficult to attribute them to a common cause. “I can’t say it’s the rain or the road or any one thing. Each one has been different and has had a different cause.”

Gasquet’s Fire District reaches from the Slant Bridge to the Oregon border and its fire department has responded to everything from vehicle fires, to vehicles in the river, to rollovers to fuel spills and fatalities.

On one particular section, along the Smith River between mile markers 10.255 and 10.69, Caltrans proposes to build a guardrail, widen shoulders and repave the highway with a high-friction surface.

“The purpose of the project is to reduce the frequency and severity of collisions within the post mile limits,” the project description states. Written comments about the project’s environmental impacts were collected until Nov. 19.

No construction date has been set for the proposed project.