‘Best foster mother’: Ukiah woman killed in Highway 101 crash near Asti was foster parent

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A Ukiah woman killed Sunday in a Highway 101 crash in northern Sonoma County was remembered as a patient caregiver.

Lena Wilson, 54, was riding in the front passenger seat of a northbound Honda Pilot when it veered right off the east side of the highway near Asti around 8:25 a.m., authorities said. The SUV crashed down a wooded embankment and collided with a tree, killing Wilson and injuring her friend, her foster son and his grandmother.

Driver Anthony Wilkinson, 47, of Talmage, suffered major injuries, the CHP said. He and passenger Rebecca Whiteman, 67, of Ukiah, were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Whiteman, who was seated behind the driver, suffered six broken ribs, she said.

Her 12-year-old grandson, Nash Whiteman, also seated in the back, was rushed to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland with major injuries but was expected to survive, authorities said. He had two broken legs, his grandmother said.

Wilkinson told officers he lost control of the SUV, but did not know how, CHP spokesman Officer David deRutte said. Alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be factors in the crash, he said.

Wilkinson could not be reached for comment.

Wilson’s relatives did not return a call Monday afternoon.

Rebecca Whiteman said Wilkinson and Wilson had driven to Santa Rosa to pick her and her grandson up from an overnight sleep study. She said the boy was put in Wilson’s care last summer while his grandmother underwent a legal battle to gain custody of him.

Wilson proved to be a caring foster parent who encouraged frequent outings between the boy and his grandmother, and she never raised her voice at the child, Whiteman said.

“She was the best foster mother we’ve ever had, and she and I became friends,” Whiteman said. “She was calm and respectful.”

The group had departed from an IHOP, where they stopped to eat breakfast, about 20 minutes before the crash, Whiteman said. She said she and her grandson were talking in the backseat of the car when it suddenly left the road and tumbled down a 30-foot embankment just south of Cloverdale.

“We were riding just fine,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you want happened.”

Unable to find her purse or phone, Whiteman crawled out a window and climbed up the hill to ask passing motorists for help, she said. She was able to stop two passing cars.

Whiteman remained at the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Monday with six broken ribs, she said. Her grandson underwent surgery Sunday and was also recovering, she added.

Staff Writer Julie Johnson contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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