Grass Valley resident identified as crash victim
April 11, 2013
Officers have identified a woman killed Thursday in a fiery crash near the Yuba River as Kristin L. Sunderland of Grass Valley.
Sunderland, 45, was driving alone in a 1997 Ford Explorer around 6 p.m. on Timbuctoo Road just north of the Parks Bar Bridge. The vehicle left the narrow county road, ripped through a wire fence and launched about 250 feet down a steep embankment and overturned on the river's east bank and caught fire, the California Highway Patrol said.
Firefighters said Thursday night that the body was so badly burned they were not immediately able to determine whether the victim was male or female.
There was no indication Sunderland applied the brakes before leaving the road. It appears the vehicle was traveling south away from a small bridge, which has been closed for some time.
A witness described seeing a large plume of heavy black smoke rising up onto the roadway before reporting the wreck.
A CHP helicopter airlifted Sunderland's body from the river's edge back onto the road after firefighters determined the terrain was too steep to remove the victim any other way. About 15 firefighters from Smartsville, Loma Rica, Browns Valley, Penn Valley and Cal Fire hooked together about 200 feet of hose to extinguish the flames, Smartsville Fire Chief Mark Zamora said.
The CHP said it remains unclear if Sunderland was wearing a seatbelt or whether drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision, which remains under investigation.
Rob Parsons is a staff writer for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.