By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY
A yet-to-be-identified driver sustained fatal injuries when his vehicle left the roadway and plummeted over the side of Highway 18 between Lake Gregory Drive and the Highway 138 interchange around 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 24.
Witnesses at the scene told authorities the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and cutting other drivers off before losing control on the narrow and winding “Narrows” segment of the highway and plummeting some 450 feet over the side.
Upon being alerted of the incident, County Fire, CHP and sheriff’s units arrived at the scene and began searching the area for any signs of the wreckage. In the meantime, a sheriff’s airship arrived and began scouring the heavily forested area for the wreckage.
Firefighters reportedly made their way down the cliff through dense brush so thick that it took them over an hour to locate the vehicle, as well as the deceased victim who had been ejected from the vehicle and landed about 50 feet away from it.
Once the wreckage had been spotted, the sheriff’s airship returned and lowered a medic and a stretcher to the ground on a steel cable to carefully lift the deceased victim back up to the hovering airship, which then transported them to the Sheriff-Coroner’s Division, near San Bernardino Airport.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Ubaldo Gonzalez, a CHP patrol unit arrived at the scene four minutes after the incident was reported. Gonzalez, who is the CHP’s Arrowhead Area public information officer, confirmed to the Alpine Mountaineer on Monday that the male driver in his 50s had been driving at a high rate of speed through the Narrows on a curve when his dark colored Jeep continued into a turnout and plummeted over the side of the mountain. Noting that there were no visible skid marks in the turnout, Gonzalez said the incident is still under investigation.