Still buckled into driver’s seat, woman found dead in overturned, partially submerged car

PALM SPRINGS — A woman, still buckled into the driver’s seat of her car, was discovered deceased inside a vehicle found upside down and partially submerged in the Whitewater River. The fatal, single-vehicle accident happened on northbound SR 111, about one mile north of Overture Road along a sweeping left curve in the highway, in an unincorporated area northwest of Palm Springs.


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California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire/Riverside County and Palm Springs Fire Departments, and other emergency first responders were dispatched to the crash about 12:45 p.m., after a 911 caller reported spotting a heavily damaged Toyota Camry upside down in the flowing river. The caller also told emergency dispatchers the vehicle’s roof was submerged underneath the water.

Officials are investigating after a woman died when her vehicle overturned into the Whitewater River along SR-111. KMIR News photo

Eight firefighters from one engine company and one truck company were sent to the scene of the deadly wreck, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson Tawny Cabral explained in an incident report.

“The first arriving engine company reported one vehicle, overturned in a wash,” said Cabral. “The vehicle was on its roof and partially submerged in water.”

According to a CHP incident log, firefighters who immediately began rescue efforts eventually reported finding a woman inside the Toyota and advised dispatchers the victim was still buckled into her seat with “obvious signs” of death.

“The lone occupant of the vehicle perished at the scene,” Cabral later confirmed in an updated incident report.

After confirming the victim’s death, first responders switched from rescue to recovery mode.

Officials at the scene initially requested a tow truck with at least 100 feet of cable to pull the partially submerged vehicle from the river; however, a tow vehicle that responded to the scene was not able to pull the Toyota from the river due to the weight of the water and speed of the flowing river.

While officials worked at the scene they called for the temporary closure of the highway’s northbound #2 lane, to provide more room for rescuers’ ongoing recovery efforts. CHP later updated that the lane would remain closed for an unknown duration, while recovery efforts continued.

Just before 1:20 p.m., officials requested the Coachella Valley Water District respond to the scene with heavy equipment capable of pulling the sedan from the wash.

Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials were eventually summoned to the scene of the fatal accident about 2:30 p.m.

As of 4:30 p.m., officials remained at the scene and efforts to pull the Toyota from the river were reportedly ongoing.

Officials have not provided any estimate when the recovery efforts would conclude.

CHP is handling the collision investigation and their investigation is ongoing.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


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Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta 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, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s 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 27 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 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.


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