Rio Dell resident Rynn Smith, 24, died when the 1991 Toyota pickup he was riding in crashed on Van Duzen Road. According to the Weaverville office of the California Highway Patrol, in Trinity County, at around 12:15 a.m. Smith and the driver of the vehicle, a 22-year-old male from Mad River who survived but whose name has not been released, were heading southbound on Van Duzen Road about seven miles south of State Route 36 at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control “for unknown reasons” and allowed the truck to drift to the left shoulder. It rolled multiple times down a steep embankment, says the CHP, and came to rest on its wheels about 100 feet below the road. Smith was ejected from the truck as it rolled and died as a result. The driver, who was not ejected, got out of the wrecked truck and walked up the slope to the road to get help. He was taken to Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna with major injuries.
The CHP, which says alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, continues to investigate.
Later, in the afternoon, 18-year-old Millie Elaine Blake, of Hoopa, died after the Toyota 4Runner she was driving, with three passengers, crashed on U.S. Highway 101 near the Sunset exit in Arcata. According to the Arcata office of the CHP, the truck was “traveling erratic southbound” around 2:15 p.m. and, “for reasons still under investigation,” lost control, went through a construction zone (missing a road crew working there at the time) and across the median and overturned across the northbound lanes. It came to rest on its roof. Blake, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected and died at the scene.
Passengers Virgil Blake, Sr., 56, and Robert Mitchell Janes, 49, both of Hoopa, were taken by ambulance to Mad River Community Hospital with moderate to major injuries. Passenger Edward Dale Pratt, 62, of Hoopa, was not injured. All three passengers were wearing seatbelts. The CHP is investigating. Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Trevor Enright says his office is doing a toxicology report, the results of which should be available in about three weeks.
Officials have released the names of two young Humboldt County residents who lost their lives yesterday, Sept. 22, in two separate vehicle collisions.