29-Year-Old Myers Flat Woman Injured, Passenger Killed in Fatal Crash

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Jan. 14 @ 8:16 a.m. /  News

California Highway Patrol press release:

On January 13, 2015, at approximately 2000 hours, a 1995 Nissan Frontier SUV, driven by 29 year old Melissa Jean Munsell of Myers Flat, CA, was traveling north on US-101, north of Weott.  For reasons still under investigation, the Nissan made an unsafe turning movement to the right and traveled off the east roadway edge.  The Nissan continued traveling in a northeasterly direction until it collided head-on with a tree located east of the east roadway edge. 

The driver of the Nissan SUV suffered major injuries as a result of the collision.  The passenger of the Nissan SUV suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene.  The name of the passenger is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. 

California Highway Patrol, Cal-Fire and the Myers Flat Volunteer Fire Department all responded to the scene.  This collision remains under investigation by the California Highway Patrol - Garberville Area. 

Drug impairment does appear to be a factor in this collision.  The passenger of Nissan SUV was not properly safety belted at the time of the collision.

Previously: Fatal Accident North of Weott on 101

Petrolia Fire Chief and a Local Guy Named Wren Rescue Hiker on Christmas Eve

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Jan. 14 @ 7:39 a.m. /  Humboldt

Short story: Three backpackers decide to hike the Lost Coast right before Christmas. There is an angry local, rain, a bear and the adventure ends with one of the backpackers needing rescue on Christmas Eve.

Long story can be found on this outdoor adventure blog. Here’s an excerpt:

We all eventually made it to the firehouse where we marked up maps and they started pulling equipment. I was informed the weather was too bad to put a chopper in the air, and quad bikes shouldn’t go out until daylight, but that they’d set out on foot and at least examine the obvious places where Matt might be holed up, provided he hadn’t been washed out to sea. Which they also informed me was a likely outcome.

I didn’t think that would have happened, but for a big, fit dude like Matt to be so many hours behind his estimated timing, I also feared something serious must have gone wrong. And he was out there in a terrible storm, in temperatures just above freezing, with little to no gear. All by himself.

I told the fire chief that Ty (sitting back in Honeydew with no idea this was happening) and I would be there right alongside him for any search and that we intended to pull our weight on his team. We could ride quads, drive a truck, man radios, whatever he needed. He just looked at me and laughed.

Read more here.

To Wren and the Honeydew Fire Chief, Marcus Dube, (Honeydew Fire Chief Mark Dube tells us that it wasn’t the him)the Petrolia Fire Chief thanks for being the sort of folk that step up when needed.

Pair of Earthquakes This Morning

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Jan. 14 @ 6:42 a.m. /  Earthquake

Wow! A double roll of quakes followed one right after another near Petrolia this morning.

The first was a 3.4 at 2:38 a.m.. The second, a 4.3, followed quickly at 2:44 a.m.  Both were a little over 10 miles deep.  

Who felt them?

Fatal Accident North of Weott on 101

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Jan. 13 @ 10:31 p.m. / Breaking News

A fatal accident occurred north of Weott about 8 p.m. tonight at mile marker 34. Reportedly a vehicle headed northbound on Hwy 101 went over the bank. A woman was trapped.

At first scanner traffic said there were two critical patients and two ambulances were requested. However, eventually one patient was said to be 1144 [a fatality] and the other patient was listed as critical. 

[UPDATE 2:40 p.m.] Naked Woman Rescued Across the River From Rio Dell

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Jan. 11 @ 10:28 a.m. /  News

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: According to Rio Dell Police Chief Graham Hill, the woman rescued this morning was a transient woman, approximately 40 years old, who is from the area. Hill said that at this time not much is known. He stated, “We are still investigating…We are working with the Sheriff’s Department to determine how she came to be there and how long she had been there.”

The woman was treated for hypothermia. The Outpost will update as more information becomes available.


Original post: Scanner traffic and witnesses report that a naked and possibly hypothermic woman was rescued across the river from Rio Dell this morning. The woman was spotted by someone fishing in the area. Rescuers accessed the woman from below Painter Street. (See map below.)

The woman was located approximately due east of the Rio Dell Mobile Home Park across the Eel River.

According to Lee Kessler, a Rio Dell resident who provided these photos, a woman fishing heard screams and alerted emergency personnel. (See photo below.)

Woman fishing heard the distressed woman calling from across the Eel River.

A drift boat in the area was flagged down and used to rescue the stranded woman. 

The drift boat returns to the Rio Dell side of the Eel with the victim wrapped in a yellow thermal blanket.

Sadly, the good guys had a bit of a problem. The Rio Dell Fire truck got stuck on the riverbank.

Thank you, rescue crews for spending part of your Sunday helping this woman!

Good News for Betty Chinn’s Organization; $35,000 Donation

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Jan. 11 @ 9:06 a.m. / Good News

According to Betty Chinn’s Facebook page, her organization has received a substantial amount of money from Green Diamond and Simpson.

Below is the information which was posted to Chinn’s page:

This Wednesday, Douglas Reed, president of Green Diamond Resource Company, presented Betty with a total donation of $35,000!! Betty was completely surprised and delighted when she heard that the Betty Chinn Homeless Foundation was being awarded this gift. $20,000 of this gift is from the Green Diamond Chairman’s Award, and is earmarked for support of our Children’s Program at Betty’s Day Center, as well as GED workshops for young adults without their high school diploma, and emergency housing vouchers. The other $15,000 is from the Simpson Family Fund and was given to Betty to wisely use as she sees fit.

Robert Cogen: He Created a Piece of Humboldt’s History

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Jan. 10 @ 7:51 p.m. /  Humboldt

Zoologist, writer, eco-tour owner, scuba diving instructor and top marijuana defense lawyer Robert Cogen (right) works with his assistant putting together complicated stained glass creations in his Eureka studio. [Photos by Kym Kemp.]

Slender, with a body twisted like a weak vine around a strong inner core of determination, Eureka resident Robert Cogen inches his way from his home to a studio in the backyard. One of his hands grips a cane while the other curls at his side. Cogen, nearly 80 years old and once a nationally known marijuana defense attorney, walks with difficulty following a stroke, but inside his studio he creates glowing stained glass panels as he has for over 30 years.

A bird snatches a fish from a North Coast river. The idea for the stained glass creation came from a fishing trip where an osprey successfully captured dinner and artist Robert Cogen didn’t. 

He used to do the work entirely by himself. Now he designs the panels and an assistant helps him with aspects which are difficult due to his weak arm. Many of his images come from the North Coast. Others come from his travels.

 This image under creation is of a favorite coastline in Thailand. Glass pieces are assembled and numbered. Then copper strips are applied to each piece before the segments are soldered together.

One wall of Cogen’s studio holds thin sections of colored glass waiting to be created into jeweled art in the future. Another wall is lined with journals documenting his past. 

 Cogen’s assistant randomly opens one of the journals to a page Cogen illustrated and wrote decades ago.

His past is colorful. Cogen, who claims he won 94% of his cases, was instrumental in introducing the species defense for clients accused of marijuana offenses. The species defense relied on the lack of knowledge about cannabis prevalent when laws against marijuana use were written. Most states only declared Cannabis Sativa illegal, but Cogen, who had a degree in science, had botanists testify in a Humboldt County courtroom that Cannabis Indica was another species and thus not illegal. The judge ruled in his favor. The ruling caused an uproar and the story was reported nationally.

In describing this aspect of his life, Cogen said, “I’m surprised that we haven’t legalized [pot] yet… . I feel like if and when it does get legalized, I’ll have played a small part in that.”

Cogen’s most famous case, however, was tried in Arizona. There, in 1969, nearly 50 people were arrested in a raid on a Native American ceremony. They were charged with possession of peyote and mescaline. Several of those arrested contacted Cogen at his law offices in Southern California. Cogen and another attorney defended them for free on religious grounds. “We wanted a binding decision that would last forever,” Cogen explained.

Eventually, Cogen said, “The Arizona Court of Appeals handed down a unanimous decision in our favor… . Arizona then appealed to the Supreme Court [and] the U.S. Supreme Court basically sent them a post card saying, ‘It’s over. You lose.’”

Robert Cogen successfully defended several of those arrested for taking part in a Native American ceremony that involved peyote. Here, The Arizona Republic reported that “forty-four ‘hippie types’ and their ‘guru’ were arrested in the incident.”

After laboriously crossing the yard, Cogen sits down in his studio among the different sections of his life. A plaque and his t-shirt bear the name of In Depth Adventures, an eco-tourism company he once owned. A photo shows him with his partner in their scuba diving gear. Portraits of animals and people he encountered in his travels adorn pages of the dozens of thick journals that occupy four or five shelves on one wall. Each of the animal drawings show the intimate knowledge of a trained zoologist. He speaks about books he has written or is writing.

Cogen crumples one impossibly furry brow above a sunken eye as he skeptically regards his assistant reading from his journal.

As his assistant lays out the numbered pieces of glass on the long lightboard, they form a glowing line off into the distance. Cogen watches. He designed the image coming to life. He chose the colored glass and helped cut the pieces, but now he watches as another’s strong hands lay each colored section carefully, bringing order out of the different shapes. 

A piece that has taken 18 months of work so far still has many steps to go before it is finished.

Cogen has help, but it is still his vision that brings the art to life. He loved the bay that his latest piece depicts. “It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and it has some of the most beautiful diving,” he said.

As his assistant settles the last pieces in place, Cogen sits quietly in the late afternoon light coming through the open studio door. He has laid out the sections of his life this day, examined them, and set them where they belong in the timeline of his life. The piece isn’t finished but much of the hard work is done.