UPDATED: HEMET: 56-year-old Hemet resident killed in head-on collision
UPDATE: Wednesday, June 7, 6:30 p.m.
HEMET — Officials have identified a man killed in a two-vehicle, head-on crash Wednesday morning, June 7. The deadly wreck happened on Highway 74 – which is also known as Florida Avenue within the City of Hemet city limits – at the intersection of Florida Avenue and Lake Street.
The deadly wreck was the second fatal collision to occur in the San Jacinto/Hemet valley within less than 12 hours .
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Within hours of the deadly crash, Riverside County Coroner officials identified the victim as 58-year-old, Robert Sheldon, of Hemet.
Sheldon died at Hemet Valley Medical Center from major, traumatic injuries he sustained in the collision. He was pronounced dead by emergency room staff at 8:50 a.m., less than one hour after the accident.
Because the accident happened along a stretch of highway that shares a border between City and County areas, multiple city, county and state agencies were dispatched to the reported accident.
City of Hemet Fire and Police Departments, Riverside County Sheriff and Fire Departments, California Highway Patrol, and American Medical Response officials rushed to the scene about 8 a.m., after multiple 911 callers reported a crash between a small, 1975 Volkswagen Beetle and a large, 2003 GMC Yukon.
Callers told emergency dispatchers the driver of the VW was seriously injured and trapped inside the mangled wreckage of his car.
The first of countless emergency first responders arrived at the scene within minutes of the first call that was dispatched to the six different agencies.
The first officials at the scene confirmed finding a major-injury traffic collision between the two vehicles. Vehicle parts, tools, personal belongings and debris were strewn throughout the intersection and roadway.
Several lanes of travel were blocked by the wrecked vehicles and debris.
Firefighter/paramedics immediately began to provide medical aid to Sheldon, who was gravely injured and trapped in the VW.
They quickly determined they would need to conduct a cut and rescue to extricate the victim from his destroyed car.
Early into the fatal wreck investigation, officials determined the accident happened on the north side of the roadway, mere feet within the City of Hemet. Because the accident was determined to have happened within City limits, Hemet Police and Fire officials assumed control of the crash scene and investigation.
Due to the extensive extrication that was required to free Sheldon, two Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire engine companies remained at the scene to assist City of Hemet firefighters with the difficult rescue.
Firefighters from the two agencies worked together and used the “Jaws of Life” to cut Sheldon from his destroyed vehicle and AMR medics transported him by ambulance to HVMC for further evaluation and treatment. In spite of life-saving efforts, Sheldon succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead by emergency room staff.
During their investigation officers determined the driver of the Yukon SUV, a 47-year-old, Hemet resident, was traveling eastbound on Florida Avenue when she approached the intersection and prepared to make a left turn onto northbound Lake Street.
At the same time, Sheldon was traveling westbound on Florida Avenue approaching the intersection in the Volkswagen.
After entering the left-turn pocket, “the driver (of the SUV) did not see the Volkswagen approaching and turned left directly in front of the Volkswagen causing the collision,” Hemet Police Sgt. Dan Reinbolt explained in a written press release after the fatal accident.
With a weight difference of nearly one and one half tons, the damage the large SUV caused the much smaller VW was catastrophic.
The driver of the GMC, who was uninjured and remained at the scene, was reportedly cooperating with the fatal collision investigation. Two juveniles in the SUV at the time of the collision escaped injury as well. All three were evaluated at the scene and declined further medical attention.
“At this time, it does not appear the driver of the GMC was under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” said Reinbolt.
While fire officials worked to free the trapped driver and officers began investigating the crash, officials called for the temporary closure of Florida Avenue between Lake and Soboba Streets.
The roadway remained closed for about two hours.
It was not known if driving into the glare of the rising, morning sun played a part in the fatal wreck.
Hemet PD’s investigation into the deadly accident is active and ongoing.
Despite calls for improvement to area highways and roads,
progress has been frustratingly slow
The notoriously dangerous section of Highway 74, including the intersection where this morning’s fatal wreck happened has been the site of several other major and fatal traffic accidents.
Many area residents have vocally called for the placement of a traffic control signal at the location; however, jurisdictional issues between City, County and State entities have been one of the problems in placing a signal at the intersection.
The intersection where today’s crash happened shares a border between City of Hemet on the north side of the highway and unincorporated County area to the south. Because the road is a State Highway, CalTrans maintains those areas that are not within incorporated cities.
In recent years CalTrans and City of Hemet have made countless safety upgrades along Highway 74/Florida Avenue and other area highways and roads in the form of raised medians in some areas within the city and large K-Rail, center dividers in other, unincorporated areas.
City, State and County agencies have also made roadway safety improvements in the form of creating no passing zones and widening of some sections of local highways as well as placing traffic signals at some intersections that have already been deemed unsafe.
Unfortunately, there remain several area roads and highways that remain notoriously dangerous, especially in certain areas, and major as well as fatal accidents continue to happen at an alarmingly regular rate.
Although driving at unsafe speeds, driving under the influence or while distracted and unsafe driving actions are often listed as contributing factors in many of these major and fatal accidents that seem far too common, no argument can be made that continuing to improve the safety of roads and highways throughout Riverside County is essential for the safety of all who drive in or through the area.
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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.