High Water Hinders Rescue Efforts, Vehicle’s Occupants Presumed Dead
Press release from the California Highway Patrol:
On December 5th at approximately 2020 hours, the California Highway Patrol received a report of a vehicle off the side of US-199 and into the Smith River near Hiouchi. The CHP, fire department, and Del Norte County Search and Rescue responded to the scene. Rescue personnel observed one tire from the vehicle and the vehicle was completely submerged in the river. Based on the physical evidence at the scene, and witness statements, the solo vehicle left southbound US- 199, and rolled down the embankment, breaking out windows, and leaving debris.
The agencies on scene checked the area around the collision scene and downstream, attempting to locate any occupants. Due to the high and rising water level, and swift current, rescue personnel could not access the vehicle.
The California Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate this collision, and work on vehicle recovery, with the assistance of Del Norte County Search and Rescue.
UPDATE: As of December 7, 2015, the Del Norte Search and Rescue as well as the California Highway Patrol have been unable to access the vehicle involved in this collision due to the high water, location, and extreme current of the river. The vehicle’s ownership has been determined, and the families of the vehicle’s occupants have been notified.
Due to current and pending storm activity, it may be some time before recovery can be made. The California Highway Patrol will work closely with the Del Norte Search and Rescue to begin recovery efforts as soon as it is safe to do so.
Out of respect to the family, and due to the ongoing investigation, the names of the occupants are not being released at this time.