Close call on Emerald Bay Road |

Close call on Emerald Bay Road

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Trees may have saved a Grass Valley couple whose truck slid off a narrow section of Highway 89 near Emerald Bay on Sunday.

After skidding off the southbound lane, crossing the northbound side and rolling over, the 1994 GMC truck driven by Tom Falls, 66, rested precariously between the pines about 75 feet from the road. The pickup landed on its tires, facing up the hill toward the first hairpin north of Cascade Properties. No other vehicles were involved.

Marilyn Falls, the 64-year-old passenger, was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital complaining of back pain. She had X-rays taken as of press time. Her husband walked up the steep hill with help, then clutched his face in his hands when he sat down to rest.

“I was just going 15 mph and hit the gravel. I started to slide, and I hit the brakes,” Falos said. “I’m just concerned about my wife.”

South Lake Tahoe and Lake Valley fire units responded at 4:10 p.m. with a hydraulic device to open the doors of the truck — its windows shattered and its contents strewn across the hill.

Crews also used a rope and harnesses to bring the woman up the hill on a stretcher, while negotiating rocks and gravel on the steep terrain.

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“These folks are really lucky, but it must have been quite a ride,” South Lake Tahoe Fire Battalion Chief Scott Douglass said, adding a motorist went off the cliff at that turn a few years ago and died in the crash.

Another accident that occurred 20 years ago resulted in a vehicle’s flying off the pavement and landing in the trees.

“For some reason, they’re just unprepared for this corner,” Douglass said, but added he is amazed more accidents do not occur on the hazardous stretch of highway.

“This is definitely one place where the signs mean what they say,” California Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Stewart said.

A sign cautioning motorists to drive 10 mph is posted at the corner.

“Luckily when they go off, they land in the trees,” CHP Officer Jeff Gartner said. “It would be nice if we had guardrails though.”

-Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at