San Gorgonio Pass area sees deadly weekend with three killed
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — As the weather warms up heading into summer and in the wake of a week filled with major injury and fatal crashes throughout the San Jacinto valley and surrounding areas, CHP officials are imploring area residents to use common sense and follow all laws regarding off-road vehicles, and to pay attention to all signage while staying off private property and private roads while heeding any warning or speed limit signs.
Among other recent deadly incidents in the Inland Empire over the last week, CHP says this past weekend saw two deadly off-road accidents including one that ended with two men dead and another with major injuries. The other was a fatal, fiery wreck involving a pickup truck that slammed head-on into a semi-truck.
The tremendous impact caused the big rig to burst into flames and killed the pickup truck driver, according to CHP.
Some of the other recent deadly crashes to plague the area over the last week include a 50-year-old Temecula woman who was killed after officials say she failed to stop for a posted stop sign; a Riverside head-on crash that killed two women, ages 19 and 63; a DUI crash that killed a 27-year-old San Jacinto passenger and seriously injured the intoxicated driver; and a 17-year-old girl who was killed when she and another victim were ejected from an SUV that officials say was fleeing the scene of a minor crash in the Badlands.
CHP officials say the driver in that incident was later arrested for DUI causing injury or death, hit and run resulting in death, and other charges.
Emergency personnel discuss a remote-area rescue and body recovery operation in Bee Canyon, east of Hemet, after a side-by-side UTV plummeted 300 feet down a steep and rocky mountainside. The accident killed the driver and seriously injured his brother, who was a passenger in the off road vehicle. Hemet News photo
In detailing last weekend’s deadly crashes handled by CHP’s San Gorgonio Pass Area Station officers, CHP Public Information Officer Matt Napier explained today that on Saturday afternoon, May 16, around 1 p.m., John Anthony Jardin, 63, of Sun City, AZ, was killed while off-roading on an unmaintained dirt trail, west of Cooper Cienega Truck Trail and south of the unincorporated community of Anza.
Officers who investigated the deadly accident have since reported Jardin was driving a 2005 Husqvarna motorcycle with a group of friends when he lost control of his motorcycle and was thrown from the vehicle as it overturned.
Jardin was pronounced deceased on scene by medical personnel, but due to the extremely rugged terrain and the inaccessibility of 4×4 type vehicles, a CHP Border Division Air Ops helicopter was needed to land near the scene of the crash to recover the victim’s body.
The next day, Sunday, May 17, at around 3:55 p.m., Edgar Benjamin Lopez-Mauricio, 41, of Hawthorne, was killed after losing control of a Polaris Rzr off-road vehicle while driving in Bee Canyon east of Hemet, on the San Jacinto Ridge Truck Trail, north of SR-74.
Although his brother, who was a passenger in the vehicle managed to leap from the side-by-side UTV when it plummeted off the high and winding dirt trail, Lopez-Mauricio was ejected and suffered major head trauma when his Polaris plummeted more than 300 feet down the steep and rocky mountainside.
After the crash, Luis Alberto Lopez-Perez, 41, of Moreno Valley, who was seriously injured in the wreck, managed to climb back up to the trail and eventually flag down help.
Summoned to the scene to help search or the victim, Cal Fire and Riverside County Sheriff’s aviation members spotted the wrecked UTV from overhead; however, they were initially unable to locate Lopez-Mauricio.
Cal Fire assisted in hoisting two brothers from Bee Canyon, after a deadly crash involving a Polaris side-by-side UTV. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo
A multi-agency ground and aerial search, which included help from countless off-road enthusiasts who swarmed to the area, was then conducted and Lopez-Mauricio was eventually found 250 to 300 feet down the mountainside.
By the time medical personnel reached the victim, they determined he had already passed away from his traumatic injuries.
Drug and alcohol intoxication were ruled out as contributing factors in the deadly accident.
Later that evening, shortly before 11 p.m., Nicholas Anthony Gonzalez, 28, of San Jacinto, was killed while driving a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado on Gilman Springs Rd., west of Bridge Street.
Officers later determined the accident happened when Gonzalez veered over the solid yellow lines and directional delineators into oncoming traffic and smashed head-on into a semi-truck and trailer.
A head-on collision between a pickup truck and tractor-trailer combo on Gilman Springs Rd. late Sunday evening killed the driver of the pickup and caused the big rig to burst into flames. Hemet Valley Incidents photo
After the impact, which caused the semi-truck to burst into flames, “the Chevrolet continued out of control, colliding with an additional vehicle resulting in a secondary non-injury collision,” Napier has since reported.
Several other vehicles were also damaged due to flying debris and swerving to avoid the initial impact.
Although Gonzalez was pronounced deceased at the scene, no other injuries were reported as a result of the additional collisions, according to Napier.
Officers later determined that the semi-truck’s fuel tank was ruptured as a result of the initial collision, prompting a lengthy clean-up and the hours-long closure of Gilman Springs Rd. while officials worked at the scene.
A deadly crash involving a 17-year-old girl who was killed when she and another teenage victim were ejected from an SUV that officials say was fleeing the scene of a minor crash in the Badlands was one of several deadly accidents to occur in the San Jacinto valley and surrounding communities in recent days.
After the deadly weekend, Napier admonished area residents to use common sense when operating off-road vehicles and to always use their seat belts and wear DOT approved helmets while recreating.
Napier also asked motorists to follow all the rules of the road and to pay attention to all signage, whether driving on or off road.
“Safe speeds will also greatly decrease your chance of an injury if a collision occurs,” Napier said after the deadly series of crashes.
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Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and 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 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.