Caltrans worker helps woman to safety after collision on Highway 267
William Miller saw the SUV in his rear view mirror seconds before he said it struck his Caltrans pickup, leading him to help the other driver to safety after both vehicles erupted in flames.
“We were just doing a sweeping site set up on the shoulder of (Highway) 267 heading toward Kings Beach,” said Miller, 44. “I was the pre-warner vehicle with the sign that says ‘Sweeping Ahead.’ I pulled up on the shoulder beyond the fog line and then I saw two vehicles in my rear view mirror. One passed me and the second is the one that made the impact.”
The collision happened around 2 a.m. Tuesday on Highway 267, just outside of Highlands View Road — about six miles southeast of Truckee, authorities said.
“The first vehicle merged over to avoid contact with me,” Miller said. “It was coming in hot. I was about to radio the crew that someone was coming in fast and before I could get the radio call out, I was struck by the second vehicle.”
Jennifer Nicole Looper, 38, of Carnelian Bay, was the second driver, authorities have said. She faces a charge of DUI causing bodily injury, and remained out on bond Thursday on $55,000 in bond, Nevada County Jail reports state.
Looper was driving south on the highway in a Subaru Crosstrek when she hit the pickup truck, California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Billings said.
“After I was hit, I tried to assess the situation after getting my bearings,” Miller said. “I tried again to radio the crew to tell them what had happened and then I un-did my seat belt and opened my door. That’s when I saw the flames.”
The collision led the fuel tank of the Caltrans truck to ignite, and the fire engulfed both vehicles, said Raquel Borrayo, spokeswoman with Caltrans.
“When I saw the flames heading toward the other vehicle, I worked my way to the other driver,” Miller said. “The woman driving got out of the vehicle on her own and just had a confused look on her face. I informed her we needed to move to safety and when she asked, ‘why,’ I told her that she had struck my vehicle.
“I escorted her to a safe distance, made sure she was OK, and ran back toward the flames to try and contain them.”
Miller’s crew arrived shortly afterward to lend a hand with the containment of the fire. Emergency services quickly arrived, he said.
Borrayo said no one was seriously injured.
Miller is doing well. In fact, he went back to work later Tuesday night.
“It was pretty intense,” Miller said. “I’m doing pretty good, but I’m still a little shook up. I think anyone would be after the events that happened.”
Miller also doesn’t want the recognition of “hero.”
“It was just moment in life and you had to act accordingly,” he said. “I just did what I hope anyone else would do.”
Miller is married and has a 10-year-old daughter. After the incident happened his family was the only thing he could think about.
“Right after I checked myself and got out of the car I thought about my family,” said Miller, who lives in Penn Valley. “I just had a great weekend with my daughter and this was the first day back after my two days off. Family was the first thing that came to my mind.”
Miller also hopes his story brings awareness.
“I hope people just go ‘Slow for the Cone Zone,’ because you don’t know how your decisions could impact someone else’s life,” he said. “I hope this gets out and spreads the word to watch out.”
Sean Jordan is a staff writer for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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