Head-on crash at Presbyterian Conference Turn | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Head-on crash at Presbyterian Conference Turn

Seven people were injured in a head-on collision Tuesday on U.S. Highway 50, at the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center grounds turnoff.

The crash involved an elderly man and woman traveling in a lwhite Toyota Pickup , and five people in a light blue Honda Civic said Terry Hughes, captain of the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. Both drivers were severely injured – the driver of the pickup, whom Hughes described as a man in his mid-20s, was airlifted to Washoe Medical Center in Reno. He is in critical condition.

Carolyn Kille and Melissa Fujimoto were driving behind the Honda and witnessed the accident. As they reached the Conference Center grounds turn, Kille said the Toyota – which was approaching from the Stateline direction – suddenly drove into her lane and crashed head-on into the Honda.

“The pickup just swerved and smacked right into them, out of nowhere,” Kille said. “We’d been driving behind those kids (in the Honda) since Reno and they were good, safe drivers. They did nothing wrong, they stayed in their lane.”

The Honda had to be cut open through the roof to extract its unconscious driver and the four passengers, who were only moderately injured, Hughes said. To complicate matters, while emergency teams were removing the passenger and driver from the pickup, a fire erupted from under its engine.

Traffic was backed-up almost a mile in both directions as emergency teams and a few Conference Center residents tended to the wounded. At least nine fire, ambulance and sheriff’s department vehicles were parked at all angles across the highway for more than one hour.

“When we hear there’s an accident at the Conference Grounds turn, we know it’s going to be a grinder,” said Rick Nicholson, battalion chief for Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. “We get at least six to 10 serious accidents on this turn per year. People just need to slow down on this curve – I’d like to see the Spooner barrier extended all the way to Stateline.”

But that might not necessarily address the problem. Just yesterday, a minor crash occurred in the same spot when a driver attempted to pull into the Conference Grounds, said Janet Leader, associate director for the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center.

Without a turn lane, she said, the problem will not be solved.

“What is it going to take for (Nevada Department of Transportation) to do something about this? They just won’t recognize it. Will it take a death, or permanent damage?” asked Leader, as she flipped through a file stuffed with documentation of accidents at the curve and letters to NDOT. “We’ve tried this the civil way, but it’s not getting us anywhere. I think it’s going to take public pressure or nothing will ever happen.”

Along with the pickup driver who was airlifted to Reno, two were taken by ambulance to Carson-Tahoe Hospital and four to Barton Memorial Hospital.

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