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Alleged intoxicated driver causes Grass Valley power outage

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer
Emergency responders extracted a Grass Valley man from a truck Monday night that collided with a ground-mounted transformer, knocking out power to nearly 800 residences.
Submitted by Tom Johnson |

Power was restored Tuesday morning in a Grass Valley neighborhood on the cusp of the downtown area, where an allegedly intoxicated driver collided with a transformer Monday, knocking out electricity to nearly 800 customers throughout the night.

The driver, Grass Valley resident Robert Bryan Ellis, 48, reportedly plowed the 1998 Ford F-150 black pickup truck he was driving into a ground-mounted transformer between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday near the corner of Rhode Island Street and the 400 block of Mill Street.

The crash caused major damage to the vehicle and the electrical device,cutting power to approximately 778 residences, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Grass Valley Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Buttron, reporting on behalf of joint operating agencies that included Nevada County Consolidated and Nevada City fire departments, all of which responded to the incident.

Ellis was reportedly the sole occupant and trapped in the truck, which was turned onto its side when emergency responders arrived on scene, Buttron reported.

Firefighters affixed rescue jacks to stabilize the vehicle, then detached the front window and pulled Ellis from the vehicle. He was transported to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.

Ellis was treated for those injuries and released, according to hospital spokeswoman Shelly Drievold.

A “high level of intoxication is suspected” to be the primary cause of the wreck, said Grass Valley Police Department Capt. Rex Marks.

No power lines were down, but PG&E servicemen responded to the damaged transformer and restored power to 721 customers shortly before midnight, said the utility’s spokeswoman, Jana Morris.

The remaining customers had their power restored shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, she said.

“The duration lasted longer due to the fact that there was a vehicle on top of our pad mount,” Morris said.

The power outage is the latest in a string of incidents attributed to suspected intoxicated drivers. At least two traffic collisions that resulted in injuries were attributed to alleged drunken drivers over the June 27 weekend, one involved a driver narrowly missing emergency personnel responding to a separate intoxication-related collision.

A week prior, five separate allegedly drunken drivers were apprehended in the span of one hour in a construction zone on Highway 49 in Grass Valley.

In May, two California Highway Patrol officers narrowly escaped injury while arresting an allegedly intoxicated driver, when an unrelated reported intoxicated driver crashed into the officers’ cruisers outside Nevada City on Highway 49.

CHP Officer Justin Barnthouse told The Union Monday that July had seen the most DUIs in one month since he joined the agency five years ago.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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