An 85-year-old man died Friday afternoon in a fiery crash when his vehicle ran off Highway 20/49 south of Nevada City.
The single-vehicle crash occurred about 12:33 p.m. as the man, a Nevada City resident, was driving eastbound on the Golden Center Freeway, east of the overcrossing of Banner Lava Cap Road. The vehicle drifted toward the right side of the road, then continued off the east edge of the roadway at freeway speeds, according to a California Highway Patrol news release.
The Ford traveled down a steep, approximately 80-foot embankment and through a metal state Department of Transportation fence. It then proceeded through a field, where it struck a tree at high speed, causing the vehicle to stop in the parking lot of a nursery, with witnesses standing nearby. The impact with the tree caused a rupture in the vehicle’s fuel system and the Ford caught fire.
A Cal Fire division chief had been driving some distance behind the Ford and saw it go off the freeway. He reported that he had not observed anything that would have caused the vehicle to run off the roadway. The Cal Fire chief exited the freeway at Gold Flat Road and drove to the scene while summoning emergency personnel. In the meantime, witnesses near the nursery began extinguishing the fire using an extinguisher and water hoses.
Additional emergency personnel responded to the scene along with CHP officers. The fire was quickly extinguished, due in part to the quick action of the people at the nursery, CHP officials said.
The driver sustained severe injuries during the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene.
CHP officials said they are investigating the possibility the man suffered a medical emergency that led to the crash. The driver’s name has not been released pending notification of family.