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July, the deadliest month in local history?


Last updated 7/29/2021 at 8:32pm

Village News/Anthony Campbell photo

On Sunday, July 11, at about 4 p.m., the San Diego Sheriff's homicide department, the San Diego Medical Examiner, a forensic anthropologist and Fallbrook Sheriff's deputies respond to the report of a dead body at or near a pond near Del Valle and Highland Oaks.

Julie Reeder and Joe Naiman

Village News

July 2021 may be the deadliest month in recent Fallbrook/Bonsall history with ten deaths reported, mostly from accidents on the I-15. Three dead bodies found, one a homicide. Of the identified victims, so far three are local people.

Saturday morning, July 24, was the latest, as we reported on yet another fatality from an accident where a man flew his box truck off the southbound I-15 overpass onto Dulin Road beneath. He was rescued but later died from his injuries. Was he "bumped" like the woman who survived a few days earlier and "drove" her car down the embankment to Dulin Road? The CHP is investigating the accident.

More deaths have been reported locally this month than any month in 24 years of Village News history, especially in a 30-day period.

This accident Saturday is just the latest.

Here are the others:

There was a suspected suicide in Rainbow a few weeks ago that we didn't report on out of respect for the family and lack of information.

On July 4, two young men, Andrew Caldera of Escondido and Noah Granado of Temecula, both 21, died after rolling their car off I-15 southbound near Mission Road.

On July 5, Mr. Sokol, a 77-year-old Bonsall man, passed away after wandering from his home and falling down a nearby ravine.

On July 8, Timmy Campbell died in the accident on East Alvarado; the driver is suspected to have been under the influence.

On July 11, a "mostly skeletal" remains were found near a pond in Fallbrook.

On July 14, the 5-year-old girl died after her mom crashed her car 150 feet down an embankment north of Gopher Canyon off the 15 freeway; the mother was arrested for a DUI.

On July 16, Sheriffs found a man buried on the property of Nick Burg, who was arrested for first degree murder.

On July 17, a man died on the freeway in an early morning single-vehicle rollover that ejected two men, killing the one.

On July 24, the unidentified man died from injuries sustained when his truck left the freeway and landed on Dulin Road beneath the freeway overpass.

Ten deaths in one month. We know that at least two of them were suspected DUI cases.

Many of the crashes were in the early morning hours. Were people falling asleep? Were they texting? Is there anything that can be done? Would guardrails help?

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has a program, "Run Off the Road'' to assess vehicles which travel off the road. This program analyzes patterns for response.

Analysis of each incident is followed by assessment of potential patterns which will determine measures to try to reduce vehicles leaving the road on that segment.

During a three-week period this month, four fatal vehicular incidents occurred either on I-15 or after a vehicle left I-15, and the one non-fatal incident where the female driver was able to keep her car upright after being forced onto the embankment off of I-15. Including the non-fatal incident four of those involved vehicles leaving the road.

"The individual ones like that we do have a program, a monitoring program," said Caltrans District 11 division chief for traffic operations Erwin Gojuangco.

The program is called the Run off the Road program. "They will be part of the overall data that we capture," Gojuangco said. "It all gets entered into a database."

The California Highway Patrol is part of Caltrans. Caltrans District 11 covers San Diego County and Imperial County. The database is at the Caltrans state office in Sacramento.

The state office notifies the Caltrans district office if the database program identifies segments with multiple accidents. "These are the areas that we investigate," Gojuangco said.

Individual accidents are investigated, but potential corrective measures are not based on a single incident. "It's got to have in a certain period of years a certain number of incidents in a segment," Gojuangco said.

The criteria to review a roadway segment is at least five incidents in a three-year period within a distance of 0.75 miles. District 11 received releases in April 2020 and October 2020. The October 2020 release covered Calendar Years 2017 through 2019 but did not include any vehicles leaving the road on Interstate 15 north of Escondido.

The October 2020 report identified segments of Interstate 8 in San Diego County, Interstate 8 in Imperial County, State Route 78, State Route 79, and State Route 94 as having at least five incidents of cars running off the road within three years. District 11 will review those incidents to determine the best corrective measures.

"We really look at each of the collision reports," Gojuangco said.

The Run of the Road program began in 2006. "We've implemented quite a lot of features and countermeasures," Gojuangco said.

Potential treatment measures include shoulder rumble strips, edgeline rumble strips, roadway delineation, warning signs, flashing beacons, and shoulder widening. If the incident involved a collision with a fixed object such as a tree or a rock potential countermeasures with that fixed object would be considered.

The road itself will also be evaluated, especially if weather conditions caused the situation. "We may need to do some pavement treatment or surface treatment," Gojuangco said.

A guardrail may not be the ideal measure. "The guardrail is not a fix-all solution," Gojuangco said. "The guardrail itself is a fixed object."

Road improvements can't cure driver behavior. "There are a lot of factors," Gojuangco said. "A lot of it sometimes is speed related and driving impaired."


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