Road fatalities on Napa County's Silverado Trail
- Published Tuesday, August 30, 2005, in the Napa Valley Register
Recent fatalities on Silverado Trail highlight dangers of local
By Carlos Villatoro
It's been a deadly summer along Silverado Trail. Five people have
perished in traffic accidents on the Trail in the past two months, and
three of those fatalities happened within two days of each other.
Even with those gruesome numbers, so far 2005 has seen fewer
fatalities on Napa County roads than had occurred by the end of August
The Trail was the site of three fatal accidents last year, and it is
regularly among the most dangerous roadways in the county. Stretches
along highways 121, 29 and 128 round out the grisly list of
treacherous roads, places where 28 fatal traffic accidents have
occurred in the last three years.
Most law enforcement officials agree that speed is the primary factor.
"People are in too big of a rush to get where they are going," Napa
Police Cmdr. Steve Potter said. "We live in a society that's
fast-paced, and we don't like to take the time to plan out (trips)."
Using cell phones, tending to children, eating or drinking, searching
or reaching for items inside the vehicle and similar distractions can
cause accidents. Driving while tired or drunk are also major
contributors to accidents.
"Sometimes bad things are going to happen to people," Potter said.
"All we could do is give recommendations to reduce bad things
Potter said that planning out trips, reducing speed, being courteous
to drivers, focusing on the road and obeying traffic laws at all times
will greatly reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.
CHP Officer Jerry Rico said he recommends that motorists keep a high
visual horizon and remain alert.
"You might just see that situation develop ahead of time, it might
give you (time to react)," Potter said. "That's all it takes for most
people, is that split second to avoid or drastically reduce the amount
of damage or injury."
The place where the most recent spate of accidents occurred is where
the Trail meets Oak Knoll Road, a straightaway stretch that features a
broken yellow line allowing faster drivers to cross into the oncoming
lanes to pass when conditions allow.
On Aug. 17, Erika Hills, 61, was killed there when an 18-foot trailer
broke loose from truck and hit her Mercedes. Just two days later,
Randel Lachmiller, 35, of Napa, and Mark Weatherby, 44, of Healdsburg,
were killed when they collided head-on. Weatherby's car had drifted
into oncoming traffic.
On July 5 two nurses, Sarah Kim and Hilary Gregory, both 26, died from
injuries they suffered from an early morning crash on the Trail. The
other driver involved in the double-fatal, Gus Amador, 60, of Napa,
was critically injured.
The California Highway Patrol and Napa County Sheriff's deputies are
entrusted to patrol Silverado Trail and most other parts of the
county. While they are concerned about the trouble on the Trail, Rico
said, "There is no pattern that anyone can come up with."
Rico said investigators are still determining the causes of the two
most recent accidents, and have attributed Kim and Gregory's accident
He also said law enforcement officers are out watching drivers on the
"We are writing citations on Silverado Trail," Rico said. "We know
that it's one of our main arteries into our valley so it has to be
patrolled. It's a lot of responsibility and people expect to see us
on the major roadways and also on the streets that they live on."