Conservation Corps members injured in police pursuit return to Fresno
Two members of a California Conservation Corps crew who were struck by an out-of-control vehicle that was evading authorities Monday along Interstate 80 near Soda Springs had returned home by Thursday, where they were seeking further medical expertise, said a spokeswoman for the agency.
“We are just very, very fortunate on this. People could have been killed,” said Susanne Levitski. “We’re very, very lucky.”
Fresno residents Linda Heuangpaseud, 23, and Jose Gabriel Garcia, 19, were working in a crew of about a dozen colleagues from the corps’ Fresno office. They were building a 50-foot brush clearance along I-80 at approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday, as William Orr, 55, is alleged to have been evading pursuit by the California Highway Patrol.
It was the crew’s first day on the project, but both Heuangpaseud and Garcia had been with the Fresno office since last summer, Levitski said.
While the two worked with their colleagues, Orr, a Rough and Ready resident, allegedly was driving recklessly in a 1989 BMW 3 Series convertible at high speeds and using the eastbound shoulders of I-80 as passing lanes.
Rather than stop when officers tried to pull him over, Orr reportedly accelerated to speeds exceeding 100 mph.
Pursuit continued eastbound into the Truckee CHP area and eventually over Donner Summit, after which the BMW abruptly exited at Donner Pass Road, driving over the overcrossing and entering I-80 westbound.
As Orr approached Soda Springs and entered a coned-off lane closure where the corps members were working, he reportedly lost control of the BMW, collided with a dirt embankment, overturning several times and striking Heuangpaseud and Garcia.
Even though Orr was wearing a seatbelt, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Heuangpaseud was air-lifted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno by CareFlight to treat a head injury.
Garcia reportedly only complained of shoulder pain.
Orr had 2.5 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle at the time of the accident, according to the Associated Press. It’s unclear if the marijuana is why Orr fled, said Truckee CHP public information officer Pete Mann. Nevada County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Coroner Richard Fevinger said that the exact cause of his death had not been determined as of Wednesday.
“Certainly, we were shaken up,” Levitski said.
While the Conservation Corps gives its workers extensive safety training, Levitski said, “This was a freak accident.
“As the supervisor told me, this is something she hopes they never see again in their lifetimes,” she said. “Everybody is basically shaken.”
While both Heuangpaseud and Garcia are back in Fresno, Levitski said the pair have not gone back out to work.
“They are still in the corps,” she said, “but haven’t gone back into the field, yet.”
The Tahoe Daily Tribune, one of the The Union’s sister papers, contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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Editor’s note: The following is the 2021 Valedictorian Address for Ghidotti High School, given by graduate Amina Federspiel-Otelea.