2 die going wrong way | TheUnion.com

2 die going wrong way

An elderly driver and his passenger were killed Saturday afternoon in Grass Valley after they drove onto Highway 49 in the wrong direction and slammed into two oncoming vehicles.

George Keeler, 87, of Granite Bay, and his 86-year-old passenger, Laura Gleaves, of Auburn, were pronounced dead at the scene by California Highway Patrol officers.

The collision occurred at about 4:20 p.m. on Highway 49 between Empire Street and McKnight Way.

Keeler reportedly was driving his Ford Ranger pickup truck east on Highway 20 and was attempting to enter Highway 49 and head south. He apparently missed the southbound on-ramp and instead entered the freeway using the northbound off-ramp.

“There were lots of vehicles that saw him and swerved around him,” CHP Sgt. Dee Lavrador said. “They honked their horns and he wasn’t paying attention.”

Keeler sped up to between 50 and 60 mph, according to the CHP. At the same time, Margaret Janes, 24, of Nevada City, was driving her 1997 Suzuki Sidekick north at about 60 mph.

After Janes saw the Ford Ranger, she slammed on the brakes and swerved left to try and get around the pickup. She was not able to avoid the crash and the vehicles collided head-on.

Janes suffered minor to moderate injuries to most of her body and was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. She was released Sunday morning, Lavrador said.

After the initial collision, the Ranger was spun into the path of another oncoming car, a Lincoln Towncar driven by Jason Royals, 29, of Grass Valley.

Royals also tried to swerve to avoid a collision but was not able to. The Towncar broadsided the Ranger and came to a stop on a shoulder. Royals suffered a concussion as well as bruises and cuts to his body. He was also taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. His condition was not known Sunday.

The pickup truck flipped onto its roof and came to rest in the northbound slow lane.

After the crashes, both northbound lanes were closed for about two and a half hours and traffic was diverted through McKnight Way.

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