One person dead in multi-vehicle crash on River Road

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One person died in a Wednesday afternoon crash involving three vehicles on River Road, forcing an extended closure of both lanes of traffic as authorities investigated the collision.

The crash was reported to authorities at 1:21 p.m. east of Olivet Road, according to Redcom, the county’s fire and medical dispatch center. The collision shut down about a half-mile of the popular east-to-west county connector beginning near the Martinelli Vineyards & Winery entrance. The roadway was reopened at 4:45 p.m., authorities said.

The crash was still under investigation Wednesday evening, but from early information it appeared that a silver Hyundai Santa Fe was headed east on River Road when the driver crossed into the oncoming lane for an unknown reason, CHP spokesman David deRutte said. It sideswiped a white Ford Ranger pickup headed west.

A white Honda CR-V traveling west behind the Ford Ranger appeared to have tried to avoid the oncoming Hyundai after it struck the Ford Ranger, but was unable to, deRutte said. The CR-V’s unidentified female driver, the only occupant of the vehicle, was killed in the crash, he said.

“It looks like she took the force on the driver’s side,” deRutte said. “There’s nothing she could have done.”

A man and a woman in the silver Hyundai were transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with minor to moderate injuries, deRutte said.

Investigators from the CHP and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office took measurements and examined the crash site. As they worked, the silver Hyundai with major front damage sat in the westbound lane of River Road a few hundred feet from Martinelli Vineyards & Winery. Further west along River Road, also off the westbound lane, sat the white Honda CR-V with major damage to the driver’s side doors and windshield. The white Ford Ranger pickup, with its rear wheels destroyed, sat a few hundred feet west of the Honda, in the shoulder of the westbound lane.

Mark Rudd of Healdsburg said he was driving the Ranger west on River Road on his way to visit a friend when another vehicle heading east swerved into his lane. He did not have any passengers with him.

“I swear it was the white car, but the police say it was the gray car,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

He honked his horn hoping the incoming vehicle would get out of his lane, but it didn’t, he said. He swerved to the right just before impact and the incoming vehicle slammed into his truck.

“It was head on, dead on, straight on,” he said.

Rudd couldn’t recall what happened after his pickup was struck.

“I don’t know what happened behind me. I was spinning around in circles and dust,” he said.

Rudd wasn’t injured in the collision, but his truck appeared totaled. The back wheels flew off in the crash and an axle was torn off the undercarriage and sticking out into the roadway.

“I got lucky,” he said.

Erika Bernheimer, tasting room and hospitality manager for the Martinelli winery, said nobody in the tasting room saw the crash, but one patron heard it.

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