Driver critically injured in Echo Summit wreck
A 33-year-old Sacramento man on Sunday was critically injured after crashing his car down the steep, rocky embankment off U.S. Highway 50 east of Echo Summit.
Authorities withheld the driver’s name as of Sunday’s press deadline, because it was uncertain the man would survive.
He was listed in critical condition with head, chest and abdominal injuries at Washoe Medical Center in Reno at 8 p.m. as he underwent surgery.
South Lake Tahoe police on Sunday evening confirmed that the driver’s wife contacted police dispatchers by telephone from Sacramento at about the same time as the accident was reported, 2:27 p.m. She was concerned about his welfare due to statements he had reportedly made to her moments earlier as he spoke to her on his cellular telephone.
Witnesses reportedly told investigators that the driver appeared to have deliberately crashed his car.
Investigators on Sunday night, however, had not confirmed whether the crash was a deliberate suicide attempt, said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Sukau.
The driver was traveling westbound, between Johnson Pass Road and Echo Summit, when he slowed and turned to his left, witnesses told authorities.
His car, a Honda CRX, traveled through a narrow opening between a guard rail and a rock formation before rolling down the hillside.
The man was thrown from the vehicle as rocks tore open the passenger compartment. The driver came to rest about 100 feet down the embankment. His car came to rest about 50 feet farther down the hill.
“I saw a big cloud of dust,” said Miguel Nunez, a Carson City man who came upon the wreckage as he traveled east over Echo Summit.
A handful of witnesses, including Nunez, climbed down the steep embankment to help the driver while others reported the accident from cellular telephones.
“He moved one arm,” Nunez said. “Once we saw him moving, we decided to go down there with a couple of blankets.”
Nunez said the man attempted to talk, but his words were barely discernible.
Firefighters and paramedics hiked down to the victim as the witnesses tried to comfort him.
The patient was loaded onto a stokes litter that was harnessed to a cable.
Four Lake Valley Fire Protection District firefighters, also harnessed to the cable, needed about a half hour to walk him up to the highway while other firefighters hoisted them via the cable. The patient was placed in a awaiting ambulance and later airlifted to Washoe Medical Center.
Rescuers said the patient appeared to drift in and out of consciousness as they walked him up the hill and that was words seemed incoherent.
The accident forced the closure of Highway 50 in both directions between Echo Summit and Meyers until about 4 p.m.
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