Washington man dies in Hwy. 20 wreck
A Washington man killed Wednesday in a single-car wreck was remembered as someone who loved the outdoors and was devoted to public service.
Karl R. Stewart, 77, died at the scene just off Highway 20 near the U.S. Forest Service White Cloud Ranger Station, according to the California Highway Patrol. There were no passengers in the car and no other vehicles were involved, CHP Officer Randy Corbett said.
Stewart is the father of Washington Fire Chief Mike Stewart, who also works as a fire captain for Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.
“He introduced me to the importance of public service and helping each other out,” the younger Stewart recalled. “He always was concerned for the community and doing things, and that’s what got me into it.”
The elder Stewart grew up in Fort Bragg and graduated as an engineer from West Point Military Academy. After an Army career, Stewart worked as an aerospace engineer for McDonnell-Douglas Corp.
As a young man, the family had bought a vacation home in Washington. While the house was being built, Stewart fell in love with the daughter of the carpenter building the kitchen cabinets – Judi, who had grown up in Grass Valley. They had been married 43 years.
After getting laid off during the downturn in the aerospace industry, Stewart “went to the vacation house to have a little sabbatical and never left,” his son said. “He had a great love of the outdoors and always tried to protect the area.”
Stewart became involved with the Nevada City Rotary Club and was club secretary for many years.
Funeral arrangements are being made.
Stewart had been traveling westbound at the spot about 10 miles east of Nevada City, according to Corbett and CHP Officer Dina Hernandez. He had been on his way to Grass Valley for a dental appointment, Mike Stewart added.
“He lost control, hit the tree first and then overturned,” Hernandez said at the scene.
Stewart may have fallen asleep, Mike Stewart speculated. “He did not drive that road fast. He was better than that. … He’d been driving that road for 48 years.”
Stewart was ejected, though it appeared he had his seat belt on. The accident remains under investigation, and part of it will include a test of the seat belts, Hernandez said.
Corbett said he was eastbound on the highway at 9:05 a.m. and unaware of the accident when he came up on tree debris in the roadway, blocking his lane.
After turning around, Corbett looked down the embankment and saw an older model Jeep Cherokee on its top and still smoking from the crash.
As he made his way down the embankment, Corbett found Stewart about 30 feet from the vehicle. Rescue workers declared Stewart dead at the scene.
City Editor Trina Kleist contributed to this report. To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
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