A Grass Valley man riding his motorcycle to a memorial for fallen coworkers was killed Thursday morning in a traffic accident.
Dean Patton, 50, was riding his 2005 Davidson with other Caltrans employees on motorcycles on their way to a Caltrans memorial in Sacramento. The event was to honor Caltrans workers Joseph “Robert” Jones, 40, of Montague, and Shawn Baker, 50, of Weed, who were killed April 24 while removing rocks from a Siskiyou County hillside.
The accident occurred at 8:18 a.m. when Jintana Walker, 73, of Sacramento, was driving her 2005 Toyota Matrix northbound on Riego Road and made a left-hand turn onto Highway 99 in front of the motorcycle riders, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Patton did not have time to brake or take evasive action, the CHP said. He was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene. Drugs or alcohol do not appear to have been factors in the crash.
Patton started his career with Caltrans in 2006 and spent the vast majority of his career at the Marysville Special Crews Yard on the “Stormwater Crew.”
He recently moved to the Nevada City Maintenance Yard. He is survived by his wife, Trisha Flud, mother Joann Baldasarra, son Seth Sherman, daughters Jessica Zeno and Felisha Dow and three granddaughters, Brianna, Alyssa and Savahna.
Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins was helping to set up the memorial when she heard the news about Patton, whom she counted a personal friend. When Jenkins got a phone call telling her that a Caltrans employee had died in the crash, she said, the name didn’t “quite stick” at first.
“I had to sit down because it shocked me,” she said. “It’s going to take some time for healing; this hit way too close to home.”
Patton worked on a crew with Jenkins’ husband for several years, she said.
“They were a traveling crew, so they were away from home for days on end,” Jenkins said. “They spend more time together than with their family … He’s a family member that we’ve lost.”
Jenkins described Patton as being heavily involved in helping others, including working on a memorial scholarship fund to help the children of Caltrans employees who had been killed.
“He had a huge heart and a boisterous laugh to match it,” she said. “That’s all gone now, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that.”
Patton was loved by the special-needs children he recently had begun coaching in a baseball league, said Jud Emery. Emery coaches the “A’s” team in the Nevada County Challenger League Baseball Little League Division, which provides disabled youth the opportunity to play baseball; Patton had just started working with him as an assistant.
“He did a lot of stuff for the community,” Emery said. “All you needed to do was ask him.”
Patton was happy to be heading to the memorial and to be helping out with the scholarship fund, Jenkins said.
“He was so excited and having a good time,” she said. “In an instant, everything changed.”
While Jenkins said she did not know much about the specifics of the accident, she noted that Patton was in the middle of the motorcycle pack.
“It is an absolute miracle Dean was the only one we lost,” she said.
It was particularly difficult for the Caltrans employees to be on the scene to clean up the accident that took the life of their “brother,” Jenkins said. But they turned down the offer to bring in an outside contractor.
“They took pride in it — in making sure he was taken care of,” she said. “And we will make sure that Trisha and the family are taken care of as well.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229. The Marysville Appeal-Democrat contributed to this report.