Heavy Rain on Friday Followed by Lots More Wet This Weekend

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Nov. 26 @ 7:28 a.m. /  Weather

More rain coming to northern California. [Graphic from the US National Weather Service. Follow them on Facebook here.

Are you planning on driving this weekend? Please be careful.

Rain and then more rain predicted this coming week. 

According to the US National Weather Service, “Traveling may be difficult this Friday through Monday due to a series of storm systems bringing widespread rain to the region. Precipitation has the potential to be heavy at times. This may cause rockslides and localized flooding in low lying areas.”   

The rain is forecast to begin on Thursday in Del Norte and northern Humboldt. Then, on Friday, the rain will blow into Southern Humboldt and Mendocino County. Over an inch of rain is expected to fall Friday in Garberville with approximately 3/4’s of an inch falling on Saturday and again on Sunday. Rain is predicted to fall off and on through the rest of the following week.

Happy Birthday to a 100-Year-Old Humboldt Man

Kym Kemp / Monday, Nov. 24 @ 11:49 a.m. /  Community

Last Friday, George Gillenwater turned 100. Reaching the century mark doesn’t happen every day so even though this is somewhat belated–happy birthday, George, from all of us here at the Lost Coast Outpost!

According Gillenwater’s great grandson, Trevor Barcelos, George was born November 21, 1914 in Libby, Oklahoma. When he was 15 years old, he had to drop out of school to raise his younger brother while his mom could finished nursing school. Later, he went on to graduate high school.

He had two children, Carroll Gillenwater in 1935 and Robert Gillenwater in 1936, in Oregon.

In 1952 he moved to Humboldt to work in the lumber mills which he did until he retired. In 1992, he remarried to Barbara Olsen. They are still married today. He has lived all over the US but made Humboldt his home and, according to Barcelos, “always appreciated the true beauty” of this county.

May you have many more wonderful birthdays in our lovely Humboldt, George!

What Happens When Romeo Texts Juliet That He’s Been in a Car Accident: How a False Report Affects Emergency Services

Kym Kemp / Monday, Nov. 24 @ 11:02 a.m. /  News

On Saturday, November 15, just before 10:30 p.m. 911 dispatch received a call about an accident off Hwy 36. According to Officer Matt Harvey of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), “A female reported receiving text messages from a boyfriend. He had been drinking… . He was bleeding. He had collided with a gate and hadn’t been able to reach 911.”

On receiving a report about this “accident,” emergency personnel jumped into action. However, the incident never happened. The exact details aren’t clear but according to multiple agencies apparently a young male juvenile texted a female (he was either involved with her or had been involved with her in the past) a false report that he had been injured in an accident. She took the report seriously and 911 was contacted with his information.  

The accident reportedly occurred near Dinsmore off Hwy 36. Any crash in that area means a long response time usually. However, dispatch personnel were relieved that a CHP unit was already in Loleta which would substantially reduce the time it would take to arrive on the scene.  At least one local volunteer fire department was also dispatched to the reported accident. Southern Trinity Area Rescue (STAR), a volunteer organization that provides emergency services for some of eastern Humboldt and the southern third of Trinity County, was called out, too.

 “The initial unit couldn’t locate any evidence…the Fire Department couldn’t find any accident,” explained Harvey. “They went to Trinity County—still found no accident.”

Emergency personnel worked frantically to locate the “wreck.” Just after midnight, personnel pinged a cell phone that was reportedly belonged to the male juvenile. “It pinged several miles west of Hwy 36 off a cell phone out there,” Harvey explained. This moved it to Garberville CHP’s jurisdiction. They sent out a unit. Meanwhile, fire personnel were searching spur roads with a four-wheel drive for any signs of the “accident.

In someways, it is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Harvey explained. The spiderweb of private dirt roads crisscrossing rural Humboldt coupled with difficulty in pinning down the location of the phone when a cell tower has been pinged in an area makes narrowing down the search difficult. A good ping might allow personnel to “pinpoint” the location within a mile radius—still an extremely large area to thoroughly investigate quickly.

By quarter to two in the morning, the fire department volunteers, the CHP, and STAR had been working for over three hours to find the reportedly injured youth. Personnel told dispatch they’d checked the area around the ping location. There were no vehicles adjacent to the roadway. They hadn’t found any tire tracks. Fire and CHP had searched the area. They could not locate the collision.

By two, CHP requested Humboldt County Search and Rescue assist in the incident. Personnel with that department began gathering their resources so they could be on scene ready to go when it got light enough.

A CHP air unit responded from Redding once it got daylight. The plane and the personnel searching on the ground were unable to locate any evidence of a collision. 

We had a lot of resources out there looking for this thing. Any time we get a report we have to take it seriously. It was possible someone was out there with substantial injuries,” Harvey explained.

To everyone’s relief, about 8:30 a.m., the family of the juvenile male was in contact with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department. They were able to reassure law enforcement that no one had been in an accident.

While this was a relief to the worried volunteers and emergency personnel that had been searching and monitoring the situation, it was also extremely frustrating. Dottie Simmons, one of the volunteers at STAR that night, wrote in a general way about false reports. She said that laws to protect patient privacy prevented her from speaking more specifically about this incident. She explained that especially in rural areas emergency resources are limited. Vehicles are old. Staff is often volunteer. “Anytime a call comes in to 911, it ties up emergency response resources,” she wrote.

When a call comes in, we do what needs to be done until the call is resolved and when a fraudulent call comes in, there is no way to know until hours of time and resources have been wasted following false leads. This limits the amount of resources for other calls and drains the energy of the personnel, making a difficult job frustrating as well.

Knowing you have worked hard to help keep a bad situation from getting worse is it’s own reward. Knowing you and your team [are] exhausted for no reason, that your equipment has had more wear and tear, all of this infringing on any real call that could happen….not so much.

Sometimes fraudulent calls can result in prosecution for the person who called in. However, in this case, Officer Patrick Bourassa of the Garberville California Highway Patrol Office said, “This person seemed like they were acting with good faith in reporting it.”  The juvenile male, he said, hadn’t reported the accident to law enforcement he had only texted to a friend so Bourassa wasn’t sure if prosecution would result in this case. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, he said, was looking into whether they should file charges. A call to their office was not returned by the time this article came out.

Many of the volunteers out searching for the “injured youth” were disheartened when they discovered their services had been expended on a false report. “Our compensation is knowing we were of service to our community,” Simmons said. In this case, their time, money, and energy were wasted.

Emergency service personnel are all frustrated. STAR volunteers who have been working on their own time to raise money to get matching grants for the ambulance service are  dealing with an additional frustration—so many of them give of their time to run the service, then they raise money and often dig into their own pockets to keep emergency services in their area up and running. Currently, they are raising money to replace two elderly ambulances. They are running out of time to complete their fundraising goals.

To support them by donating money, go here. Brooke Johnston, EMS manager at STAR, explained, “Every little bit helps and with all of the mail in donations along with the fund Humboldt page we are getting much closer to qualifying for a matching grant but we still need the community’s help.”

Southern Trinity Area Rescue wants to replace their older ambulances with newer models.


Plane Wreckage Lifted From Eel River; Dr. Doug Pleatman Remembered

Andrew Goff / Sunday, Nov. 23 @ 3:35 p.m. /  News

The wreckage of the small, single-engine plane that crashed near Garberville on Friday was pulled from the bed of the Eel River by helicopter Sunday. The photos and video above and below were provided by LoCO reader Tori Miclette.

Meanwhile, the victim in Friday’s crash, 59-year-old Dr. Douglas Pleatman, has been the subject of several profiles by media outlets closer to his primary home. According to the below report produced by ABC News10 out of Sacramento, Pleatman made a monthly aerial commute from his home in El Dorado County to work in the ER at Garberville’s Jerold Phelps Community Hospital. It is also noted that Friday’s was Pleatman’s second plane crash.

The brief bio below comes from the website of the Urgent Care Center of Folsom where Pleatman also worked as an ER doc:

Douglas Pleatman, MD graduated with honors from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He is board certified in both Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine. Having worked in both specialties he feels that Urgent Care is a great combination of both disciplines.

Dr. Pleatman is an instrument-rated private pilot, flies a Piper Comanche and is a member of the Sheriff’s Air Squadron. He is also a national champion skydiver and a former member of a professional air show team. He has been scuba diving in the South Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean and enjoys travel.

Be On the Lookout: Guitar Stolen from Green Room at the Mateel

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Nov. 23 @ 7:14 a.m. /  Crime

Here’s the latest post in LoCO‘s “Be On the Lookout” series, where we highlight stolen items and ask you to help by reporting any sighting to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Not cool! 

6:15pm on Saturday, November 15, an unknown person removed a Taylor 714CE Grand Auditorium, Sunburst colored, 6-string acoustic/electric guitar in a brown Taylor hardshell case from the green room of the Mateel Community Center.

The serial number 1110172036.If anyone has any info on the guitar,  please contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251.

Previous BOLO:

There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Promotions, Measure Z Change the Face of Law Enforcement for Outlying Areas

Kym Kemp / Friday, Nov. 21 @ 2:13 p.m. /  News

With retirements in his department and money concerns easing up now that Measure Z passed, Sheriff Mike Downey is making some big changes to the face of law enforcement—especially for Southern Humboldt and McKinleyville areas. Five officers will be promoted as of the 24th and Downey is assigning workloads differently.

Southern Humboldt will be particularly affected by Sgt. Dennis Young being promoted to Lieutenant. Young will be focused on Southern Humboldt issues. Downey says Young will try to keep his finger on the pulse of the community by working with Jesse Taylor who is being promoted to sergeant and taking the place of Sgt. Ken Swithenbank who will be working out of the main office. Downey explained that he expects Young to become a direct liaison between the Sheriff’s Department and Southern Humboldt. “I expect he’ll attend chamber meeting once awhile and get out to RID meetings in Shelter Cove,” he said. 

Taylor,” Downey said, “is very excited about taking [his new job on.] He has some innovative ideas… . He will be a visible face. He’ll be down there daily.  I think it is going to be a good addition to the So Humboldt area.”

Swithenbank will be reassigned to patrol operations out of the main station. 

McKinleyville, Blue Lake, Trinidad and the tribal communities will see a new face as Sgt. Kevin Miller promotes to lieutenant and is stationed in McKinleyville. “He will be a direct link between those communities and the sheriff… . Kevin knows the community very well.”

Measure Z, Downey said will allow him to hire additional staff and positions in June.  “I’m going to fill the positions as quickly as I can… . I hope to hire 6 deputy sheriffs and 2 sergeants.” He also hopes to hire correctional staff and classified staff “to support the new deputy positions.”

As to the consolidation of the Coroner’s position with the Sheriff’s Department, Downey says he doesn’t expect the public to see a big change right away. The deputy coroners will stay on their job, he explained.  Eventually, he said, he might assign a detective to work with the coroner’s office.

Many coroner officers out there have detectives assigned to work with them because of the complexity of the investigations. There are a lot of models that I’m looking at to best serve the public,” Downey explained. The main job for the Coroner, he said, is to identify the cause of death for a person. If it becomes clear that the death is a crime, then with a detective assigned there will have been law enforcement on scene from the beginning of the case.” An investigator will be able to capture more of the investigative process quickly,” Downey said.

Downey explained that he is working to make communication between the public and the Sheriff’s Office more open. With the retirement of Lt. Steve Knight, Downey said, “I am seriously considering civilianizing the PIO [Public Information Officer] position.” He thinks it might be improve communication to have someone totally dedicated to providing information to the public. But that change, he said, could take six to eight months. 

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release:

Sheriff Michael Downey is pleased to announce five new promotions within the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office due to recent vacancies. Effective 11-24-2014, two Sheriff’s Office Sergeants, Kevin Miller and Dennis Young, will be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. Corporals Jesse Taylor, Justin Braud and Detective Samuel Williams will be promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Sergeant Kevin Miller has been with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for approximately 20 years and has worked a variety of assignments. He is currently a patrol sergeant and when he is promoted, he will be assigned to the re-established Northern Area Command. Lieutenant Miller will be responsible for all areas north of Eureka, including Orick, McKinleyville, Willow Creek, Hoopa, the Animal Shelter, the Airport and the contract cities of Blue Lake and Trinidad. Lieutenant Miller will be attending community meetings, tribal meetings and contract city meetings as the Sheriff’s representative.

Sergeant Dennis Young has been with the Sheriff’s Office for approximately 16 years and is currently the Sergeant in charge of the bailiffs, courthouse security and civil division. Lieutenant Young will be responsible for courthouse security, civil division, court security and all areas south of Eureka, including Loleta, Garberville, Bridgeville, Honeydew, Petrolia, Redway and Alderpoint. He will also be attending community meetings as the Sheriff’s representative.

Corporal Justin (J.D.) Braud has approximately 12 years of law enforcement experience. He has worked for the Sheriff’s Office as well as Eureka Police Department. Corporal Jesse Taylor has been with the Sheriff’s Office approximately 12 years. Detective Samuel Williams has been with the Sheriff’s Office approximately 13 years. All three newly promoted Sergeants will be assigned to the patrol division of the Sheriff’s Office.

Plane Crashes Near Garberville

Andrew Goff / Friday, Nov. 21 @ 10:47 a.m. /  Emergencies

UPDATE: The victim in the crash has been identified as Dr. Douglas Pleatman who serves as the chief emergency room doctor at Garberville’s Jerold Phelps Community Hospital.

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Above photo courtesy Denise Bonham

UPDATE, 11:27 a.m.: LoCO correspondent Emily Hobelmann is at the scene of the crash. According to Sheriff’s Office deputy Moore, sometime around 10:20 a.m. the single-engine Piper PA24 hit a tree and lost a wing before crashing. The plane’s only occupant has died.

It is believed that FAA officials may not be able to make it to the site until tomorrow. It is expected that the river’s level will have risen two feet by that time.

A nearby resident, Chester Clark, said he heard the plane hit the tree then looked out his window to see the plane cartwheel down to the ground.

Photo above courtesy Sundara Clark

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UPDATE, 11:09 a.m.: KMUD Radio has posted photos of the plane in the river to their Facebook page:

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Original Post: A credible call in to LoCO‘s sister radio station KWPT The Point indicates that a plane has crashed near Sprowl Creek in SoHum.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office public information officer is apparently not in today, so we have very few details at this time but should know more soon.