[UPDATE 10:20 a.m.] Fortuna Man Driver in This Morning’s Double Fatal Accident

fatal car crash

The Jaws of Life had to be used on the vehicle to extricate two of the victims. [Photo by Steve Berteaux]

This is a press release from the California Highway Patrol. The information has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:

On July 21, 2017, at approximately 0320 hours, a 2002 GMC Yukon, driven by Steven Murray of Fortuna, CA, was traveling northbound on US-101 just north of French Road.  For reasons still under investigation, Murray allowed the GMC to run off the east road edge and collide with a light pole and redwood tree. The collision with the redwood tree caused the GMC to overturn as it traveled down an embankment adjacent to US-101. The GMC eventually came to rest on its left side within the lanes of Maple Hills Road. Two of the passengers in the GMC sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased at the scene.  Murray was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, CA with moderate injuries and at this time is in stable condition.  The names of the two passengers are being withheld pending notification to the next of kin.

Maple Hills Road was closed for scene investigation.

The California Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Phillipsville Volunteer Fire Department, Miranda Volunteer Fire Department, Cal Fire, City Ambulance of Eureka, and Cal Trans all responded to the scene.  This collision remains under investigation by the Garberville CHP.


UPDATE 10:20 a.m.: The CHP has released the names of the victims. Dennis Wendt age 69 the sole owner of Wendt Construction in Fortuna and Roger Harwood age 67 of Fortuna were named.
CHP report on fatal accident of Fortuna men
Earlier Chapter: Fatal Accident Near the Miranda Offramp; Two Locals Dead; Driver Injured



  • This is really going to change things in Fortuna.

    Condolences to all the friends and family.

  • Wow, unbelievable!! Rest In Peace DW, one hellava guy! Most generous person in Fortuna! Gonna leave a huge mark in our community

  • if its the same dennis wendt
    i knew him years ago . worked at his speed shop in fortuna and at his shop at his house . drag racing was the thing back then
    RIP dennis

  • Terry and Donna Strong

    Prayers and condolences go out to the families of Dennis and Steven. May you RIP.

  • Did many concrete pumping jobs for Dennis. Great guy,solid work always done right. Sending condolences to family and crew from Lost Coast Concrete Pumping

  • You will be missed by oh so many Dennis!! Thanks for all you have done for this community! May we include you in our celebration to the country every July 4!!!!!
    Rest In Peace ❤️

    • Roger and Debi Sanderson

      You’ve touched so many in our little community! And all the young people’s lives that you helped. All of the sports and all of your generosity unparalleled on our kids and grandkids. Our prayers are with all the ones that remain….until we see you again…..

  • Dennis and Roger may you RIP, praying for a solid recovery for their families….this is so sad

  • RIP Dennis & Steven. My Prayers go out to both families.

  • Wow! That’s a big loss to the Fortune construction community. Mr Murray will be devastated when he wakes up from his injuries and finds out the news. Sad

  • So sorry,you will be missed ,RIP! Prayers going out to all the families, during this most difficult time .

  • Highway between weott and Miranda is HAUNTED

    Oh no!!! Dennis and Roger were hard working soulful men of integrity. They had just begun to formulate a project for me and I was so confident in their skillset and I trusted them with developing my property implicitly.

    I’m devastated… Such a huge huge loss.

    Condolences to their families….

    • I believe that you might be correct, from the death of Hope and 3 children back in 1999 ? who knows how many before that date , and so many after. I know the freeway by Myers is banked in the wrong direction, that might be part of it. But , you might be on to something spooky and dark. Just way too many deaths.

  • I knew Roger for many years while he worked at the Eureka VA clinic. Prayers to his wife and daughter.

  • My heart goes out to my best friend and daughter Renee. She is devastated. Please everyone! I don’t know how it happened yet, but please pay attention to your driving. If your tired, in a hurry, whatever. Stop and think! My daughter lost her Dad today. Her life is forever changed because of someone else.

    • RIP Dennis and Roger

      This was in no way Steve’s fault. It was an accident and if you really knew Dennis, you would know that he would not blame Steve for what happened. How dare you try to point fingers and place that blame on him, you should be ashamed of yourself. Have some respect and mourn this devastating loss like everyone else. RIP Dennis and Roger. Gone but never forgotten <3

    • RIP Dennis & Roger

      Get your facts straight Barbie!

  • I am so sorry for the loss of lives during this tragic accident. Dennis and Roger will be missed by the entire Humboldt Community; especially Fortuna. Steve is in my thoughts and prayers for a full recovery <3. The families of all parties involved have my sincere condolences.

  • Our family is in shock. I have asked for prayers for the whole family. Our church and pastor and the whole prayer team is praying for strength and healing. Roger is our brother in law. we will miss him very much. so happy and grateful to have spent the time camping with Roger and family get togethers. I will be thinking of you every time the giants play. Patricia and Harvey weed. Janet’s brother and sister.

    • Kathy Wendt Heuschkel

      Our family is in shock also. My heartfelt prayers go out Janet and her whole family. I pray for strength for all of us and especially for Steve. Hugs to all Kathy, Dennis’s sister

  • Shocked and saddened. I am so sorry.

  • Oh my goodness. This is awful. So sorry for your loss. Prayers to the families and the Fortuna Community!!!

  • Our prayers and love go to the families. Big hug for Janet, Kathy and kids. It will be hard. One moment at a time. Gary and Renee Howard.

  • Kym Dennis was 69 NOT 67.

  • Oh dear,we’ve known both of them long time. My husband has done lots of work for him.my condolences to the family’s. May God bless you all🕊

  • Good man so sad will miss

  • Billy and Peggy Pomranke

    Ohhhh so saddened to hear of this news … we are fervently praying for all involved and for all of the Fortuna community … a special man indeed.
    RIP Dennis and Roger 🙏🙏🙏

  • Dennis gave me my first job as a 16 yr. old kid. Clearing brush and taught me some carpentry too. He was willing to take the time to teach me the trade. But I had other plans. He was a good man. Always giving to the youth of the community. A positive role model for many who knew him. RIP Condolences to his family.

  • Dennis always had a smile and a hand shake. Great man and friend. My deepest sympathies to all involved.

  • Former Fortunan

    When I read Dennis Wendt had been killed, my stomach dropped and I couldn’t believe it! I don’t know Mr. Wendt personally but I know he has been a huge presence in Fortuna for years… he has been generous with his time, his money and his commitment to my home town! In my mind, he has been one of the stalwarts of the community! I feel so badly for his family and pray they find comfort in this time of sorrow. I pray for Roger Harwood’s family that they find support and comfort as they morn his loss! And Steven Murray, I pray for his recovery and his family!

    What a tragedy!!

  • I often wonder why the media has to post pictures like this after a fatal accident. How horrifying for family members to happen upon this article and see a photo showing the results of the accident that took their loved ones. Freedom of Press is a right but show some compassion as well.

    • Susan Cortopassi

      If my family died in a crash I would want to see it for closure.
      2 friends of mine were crushed in the windstorm of humboldt in the 70’s by a redwood falling on their car trying to get home. After I saw the car. I had complete closure. For me it left no doubt that they were gone. And that they didn’t suffer. 😢 Still miss them but it was a piece of closure.

    • Kathy Wendt Heuschkel

      I disagree. It was hard to view but it helped me to understand better where it happened when I could not go to the site. Thank you Kym Kemp for keeping Redheaded Blackbelt up and running. We in Humboldt County are a unique group and you provide a tool that keeps us informed and a means to reach out to each other in times like this. Thank you everyone for loving Dennis like we do.

      • Kathy, thank you. That is the way I would feel but I never want to hurt the families of victims and I struggle every time with what to post and what not to post.

        May you and your loved ones find a way to deal with your terrible loss.

        • Kym If you didn’t post the pictures the newspaper and local TV news would eventually have it on the front page. My brother was killed in a terrible traffic accident many years ago. I didn’t look at those newspapers for many, many years. It’s been over 50 years and it still haunts me. It’s a terrible club to belong to. Prayers go to the families of Dennis, Roger and Steve.

          • I’m so sorry that you’ve had this to deal with. I know that just losing my dad and he was ready to go was hard. Losing a relatively young healthy person would be terrible.

  • Teisha Mechetti

    This is absolutely tragic!

  • So sad to hear this news. Dennis and I had great times riding motorcycles and enjoying life as teenagers.

  • My prayers and thoughts to their loved ones. Such a tragic loss. R.I.P. to both.

  • Loleta Bull Farmer

    Sad an tragic day for Fortuna an all the families affected by this accident..My prayers for all of them and for all those who will miss a great pair of men.. These guys are the ones who are described as “they don’t make em like that anymore” an certainly earned it..
    If I could ever just do half the positive things these fellas did for our community,I’d be very proud..Again , condolences to the families of all..

  • Food for thought

    What a terrible loss to the community. My Condolences to the families. I’m wondering why the article doesn’t state weather this accident does or doesn’t appear to be alcohol related where as most other driving fatalities usually do. I’m not implying that that is the case I just noticed that while reading as being missing or not present rather.

  • Dennis was such a wonderful man and he will be missed….my sympathy to all the families!

    • Melinda Cordray Hellrig

      I am so sorry to hear about Roger Harwoods passing I knew Roger for many years and also was friends with him and his first wife my condolescences go out to his family .


    My sympathies to all the families.
    May the driver heal well.So sad.Former Fortunan

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