The California Highway Patrol is investigating the death of a U.S. Forest Service firefighter who appears to have been run over by a car filled with his colleagues on a road in Yuba County over the weekend.
Michael Patrick Kelly II, 32, who served as a squad boss on the Tahoe Hotshots Crew, died about 1:10 a.m. Saturday after being hit on Marysville Road, west of Old Toll Road, not far from Camptonville, the small town where the crew is based, about 36 miles northeast of Marysville.
“This is a tragic loss for Mike’s family, for Tahoe National Forest and for the firefighting community,” said Tahoe Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn in a statement.
A news release from the CHP states that the crash occurred when seven members of the “hot shots” crew were in a 2002 Hyundai Accent sedan traveling westbound on Marysville Road.
At the same time, another vehicle was traveling eastbound toward the crowded Hyundai. The driver of that car saw a pedestrian lying down in the westbound lane.
The driver came to a stop and tried to alert the oncoming Hyundai by flashing the vehicles’s high-beam headlights. The Hyundai, driven by firefighter Andrew Gruenberg, 26, did not stop and ran over Kelly, the CHP statement said.
The CHP’s news release said Gruenberg reportedly believed he had run over an animal and continued toward his destination. A passenger in the Hyundai called 911 to report a crash with something in the roadway.
After the firefighters arrived at their destination, about 2 miles away, two of the passengers got into another vehicle and drove back to the scene. By then, emergency personnel had determined that Gruenberg had run over Kelly, according to the news release.
Kelly suffered blunt force trauma to the head and torso, officials said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
All parties involved in the crash are cooperating with the CHP’s investigation, and alcohol does appear to be a factor in the incident, according to the news release.
No arrests have been made, pending toxicology results “and further examinations,” stated the CHP release.
Kelly joined the Forest Service as a permanent employee in 2003 and had been a Tahoe National Forest employee since 2008.
He worked in many capacities during his career in the Forest Service, serving as a firefighter on fire engines, as a smoke jumper and a squad boss on a “hot shot” crew.