Driver in critical condition after head-on crash |

Driver in critical condition after head-on crash

A Nevada City man remains in critical condition after he crashed his SUV head-on into a concrete abutment near Broad Street Thursday morning.

David William Connell, 52, was driving a 2003 Ford Expedition eastbound on Highway 20/49 through Nevada City at approximately 5:05 a.m. with Carol Connell, also 52, in the front passenger seat, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Greg Tassone.

David Connell, who was not wearing a seatbelt, drifted completely out of his lane during the sweeping curve before the Broad Street off-ramp, Tassone said.

He then collided head-on into the concrete abutment separating the off-ramp from the main portion of the freeway, collapsing the metal collision-attenuator installed there.

Tassone said the attenuator is an accordion-type metal structure that replaced the sand-and-water barrels that formerly were used to slow vehicles during collisions; he noted that Connell plowed through 30 feet of attenuator before impacting the concrete barrier.

Connell was ejected partially through the windshield, sustaining major head trauma, Tassone said. He was flown via helicopter air ambulance to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, where he was reported to be in critical condition.

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Carol Connell — who was wearing her seatbelt — sustained possible broken limbs and was transported via ground ambulance to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries.

After a preliminary investigation, David Connell was suspected of being under the influence of medications and/or dangerous drugs at the time of the collision.

He was subsequently arrested for felony DUI but was released to the hospital due to his serious medical condition.

He appeared to be substantially impaired, Tassone said, adding that investigators were looking into any pre-existing medical condition. Tassone said that Connell had been driving on an expired license.

Along with CHP ground units, the agencies responding to this incident were the Nevada City Fire Department, Nevada County Consolidated Fire Protection District, Nevada City and Grass Valley police departments, Nevada County Sheriff's Office, Sierra Nevada Ambulance and the CalStar helicopter.

Tassone pointed to the fact that Connell was not wearing a seatbelt as being the primary factor in the severity of his injuries.

"We've seen such an increase in fatal collisions, with a huge percentage not wearing seatbelts," he said of the statewide numbers.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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