A Santa Rosa woman was killed in a head-on collision shortly after 1 a.m. Friday by a suspected drunken driver traveling the wrong way on Highway 101 near the Marin-Sonoma county line, the CHP said.
The wrong-way driver, 47-year-old Kristine Collier of Santa Rosa, collided with Sachiko Umehara, who was driving the correct way in the fast lane on northbound Highway 101, according to CHP Officer Andrew Barclay. Collier was driving south on the highway in the same lane when the two collided just north of the San Antonio Road exit. Both drivers were traveling at 65 mph, but the collision was difficult to avoid because the drivers were coming at each other at relative speed of 130 miles per hour, Barclay said.
“It was dark, that roadway is curvy and they were closing that distance between each other extremely quickly,” he said.
The two vehicles — a 2006 Mercedes sedan driven by Collier and a 2000 Honda Odyssey van driven by Umehara — were blocking both lanes of the two-lane highway after the crash when an approaching driver in a Dodge Ram pickup hit both vehicles.
The road was completely dark when the driver of the third vehicle, 35-year-old Maynor Santos-Singor, crashed into the two vehicles, Barclay said.
Both women suffered major injuries and were cut from their vehicles with hydraulic equipment, Barclay said. Umehara, 63, was transported by ambulance to Marin General Hospital, where she died early Friday.
Collier was transported by CHP helicopter to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. Her injuries are believed to be non-life threatening. CHP officers arrested Collier at the hospital on suspicion of drunken driving. Santos-Singor was transported to Marin General Hospital with minor injuries.
Barclay cautioned night-time drivers to travel in the slow lane.
“What we routinely see with intoxicated wrong-way drivers is they believe they are on the correct side of the roadway in the slow lane,” he said. “This is a tragic example of why we always tell people to stay out of the fast lane on multi-lane roadways at night. So often when we see these type of collisions, they’re usually in the fast lane.”
CHP is still investigating the crash, but Barclay said Collier could have entered the highway at Petaluma Boulevard South or somewhere in between that entrance and the San Antonio Road on-ramp. The CHP is still working with the Marin County District Attorney’s Office to determine Collier’s charges.
Umehara and her husband, Mike, own Momiji Nursery on Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa. The nursery, established in 1979, specializes in Japanese maples.
Umehara’s daughter described her mother, who was born in Japan but lived in Santa Rosa for 36 years, as a kind and giving person who enjoyed helping others.
“She loved to cook and she loved sharing her food with people. She just had such a big heart and always wanted to teach people what she learned,” said Christina Umehara, 32. “It’s so hard to lose someone in this situation, it’s so unneeded.”
Mike Umehara, who was married to “Sachi” for 34 years, expressed disappointment that he could not see his wife's body as a result of the active investigation.
“It’s makes it really hard for us,” he said. “We want to say goodbye and see her.”