According to the California Highway Patrol, the three people who died in car accidents over the four-day period starting on Thanksgiving night 2017 brought the states total roadway deaths to 20. The three people were two women and an infant, Sarah Rae Rohde, 27, of Copperopolis, her 19-month-old daughter, Arianna Harris, and Brenda McCann, 65, of Valley Springs, who died in a separate car accident. The mother and daughter pair were travelling west on Highway 4 on Thanksgiving. They were travelling just west of Holiday Mine Road at 55-60 mph when the wreck happened. Another child, a 4-year-old boy, was also in the car. The group struck a black bear that had wandered into the road. The mother and daughter were killed from the impact.
On the Monday before this accident, Brenda McCann was involved in a three-car pile-up in Valley Springs. Twenty-nine-year-old Mark Linnerman of Modesto was driving a 2005 Ford west on Highway 26, west of Vista del Lago Drive. Simultaneously, Wade McCann, driving a 1998 Jeep in front of Linnerman, stopped to make a left turn onto a frontage road running parallel to Highway 26. Linnerman failed to recognize this and the vehicles crashed. The force of the impact sent Mcann into the eastbound lane, where he was stuck by a 2014 Ford F150 pickup driven by Rudi Leon, 44-years-old, of Valley Springs. Brenda McCann was riding in the front passenger seat of the Jeep. She was transported to the Mark Twain Medical Center and pronounced deceased. Highway 26 was then blocked to further traffic for an hour and 20 minutes. No arrests were made. Drugs or alcohol are not believed to be factors in either of the collisions that occurred over the weekend. The Valley Springs accident is still under investigation, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Unfortunately for the public and CHP, deadly crashes are becoming far too commonplace in Calaveras County. According to CHP San Andreas Public Information Officer Tobias Butzler, in 2017, the number of fatalities has hit the roof. The death toll has doubled so far, this year. In 2016, there were a total of 10 mortal accidents. With less than a month left in 2017, the California Highway Patrol has responded to 19 fatal occurrences during which 20 people have been killed. The reasons are unknown, according to police but CHP lieutenants have agonized finding common themes to the fatalities. So far, no commonalities have been revealed.
California Highway Patrol representatives have deliberated upon whether they should concentrate on specific areas of the county or if they need to focus on specific indicators. Despite the best plans of California Highway Patrol, they will not be able to catch everyone. CHP reps called the Thanksgiving incident a rarity, saying while animal-versus-vehicle accidents are more common in Calaveras County than in other areas, it’s rare for bears to meander down the hill as far as that specific black bear was on Thanksgiving evening. According to a study by the University of California Road Ecology Center, 135 black bears incidents occurred in 2016. That is a number dwarfed by 6,119 deer and 377 coyotes involved in crashes the same year. Wild pigs, elk, and mountain lions were responsible for under 50 collisions a year. Only five of the total collisions recorded, however, resulted in fatalities.
While there seems to be no reason for the increase in car crash fatalities, there is only one way to curb it and that is driver diligence in safety precautions. We can’t stop brown bears and other animals from wandering into the road, but with some added safety measures we can deter a few accidents.