A Sunday afternoon drive on westbound Highway 50 turned into a car accident that brought a flurry of people to help. A white vehicle carrying a family of five was traveling west bound on Highway 50 east of Greenstone Road when it suddenly veered to the right, off the freeway and down an embankment.
Ashlee Hempt and her friend Candace Johnson, both nurses from Sacramento, were returning home from visiting Lake Tahoe on Oct. 13. “About 1:30 to 1:45, I saw this big cloud of dust off the freeway,” said Hempt. “My friend said it was a fire, but I knew it was an accident. People were braking and slowing way down.”
The two saw that a car had gone over the embankment and pulled off the freeway, determined to help. “I asked if anyone had called 911 and a woman said she had. A man said we shouldn’t go down there, but I told him we were nurses and we were going to help,” said Hempt.
On the other side of the embankment, the white car was crosswise between two trees, said Hempt. “There was a dad, a mom and three children. The dad was already pulling them out and there were a lot of other people down there to help.”
Hempt said all five of the family members had significant head injuries. “The 17-month-old was bleeding from both ears. Two guys took each child up the embankment while my friend walked up with the mother and I walked up with the father.”
El Dorado County Fire Protection District engines 25 and 46 and medics 25 and 28 responded. EMS crews stabilized the injured and transported all five of them to Marshall Hospital.
Hempt said the response of fellow motorists was amazing. “People stopped and helped. Then when I didn’t see anything about it in the news after a few days, I started to worry about the family because head injuries can be very serious. I wanted to know if everyone survived. I think all the people who helped would want to know that too.”
According to Sgt. Chovanec of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, the report filed on the incident stated the adult female had been driving and the male adult passenger had allegedly been drinking. An argument ensued between the two and the passenger, John Lee Helland, 38, of Rancho Cordova, reportedly grabbed the steering wheel and wrenched it, sending the vehicle off the freeway.
CHP responded to the accident, but after it was determined to be intentional, they turned the investigation over to the EDSO, who arrested Helland at Marshall on four felony counts: attempted murder, domestic violence, child endangerment and assault with a deadly weapon. He was arraigned on Oct. 15 . No bail was set and he is still in custody in the El Dorado County Jail.
Because of privacy act limitations, no information is available on the condition of the mother and three children whose ages are 10, 6 and 17 months.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.