Freelance reporter finds injured driver, aids rescuers

By: Brad Smith Press Tribune Correspondent
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After an intense multi-agency search, a 66-year-old Antelope woman was rescued from her 2000 Dodge Caravan after it crashed into a remote ditch Tuesday night. Authorities are crediting a freelance reporter for his part in finding the woman and her vehicle, then directing rescue personnel to the area. Dee Dee Gunther, spokeswoman for the Roseville Police Department, said that at 9:05 p.m. Tuesday, 911 dispatchers were contacted by a female driver, saying that there had been an accident. “The driver, on her way home from Thunder Valley Casino, reported that her vehicle went off the road, rolling into a ditch,” Gunther said. However, the driver was not sure of her location. Gunther said dispatchers were told the accident happened somewhere along Fiddyment Road near Roseville or Walerga roads in Sacramento County. “That meant a lot of area to search,” Gunther said, “as well as different jurisdictions.” Roseville police and fire/rescue personnel started their search of Fiddyment, while the California Highway Patrol and CAL FIRE combed Walerga. Dispatchers remained on the line with the driver who, at one point, said she could hear the rescue vehicles’ sirens. In an effort to pinpoint the driver’s location, authorities contacted her mobile phone’s carrier, Verizon. Gunther said that Verizon traced the signal to an area along Blue Oaks Boulevard. Meantime, freelance reporter Travis Hammond was driving in the Blue Oaks area. He had been listening to the scanner traffic, Gunther said. “Like any good reporter, he went out to get the story,” she said, “However, he found more than that.” Some time around 9:45 p.m., Hammond was driving along the boulevard’s dead end, when he noticed the barricade had been damaged. More than 200 feet away from the damaged barricade, lying in a ditch, was the Dodge Caravan. Hammond quickly called for help, Gunther said, and led rescuers to the vehicle. The driver was transported to the hospital, where she was treated for her injuries and later released. Gunther said that the traffic collision is still under investigation. She said that the boulevard’s dead end is well-marked, with two warning signs — one at 1,000 feet from the barricade and the other at 500 feet. The barricade has eight red diamonds on it and three sets of rumble strips were installed as well. “Caltrans requires one warning sign and one red diamond marker on the barricade,” she said. The rumble strips are not required but the city put them in nonetheless. Gunther said that Hammond was “instrumental” in locating and rescuing the woman. “A lot of people were out there that night,” she said. “Travis happened to be the right one in the right place at the right time. He made a difference by being out there." When contacted, Hammond did not want to comment.