On Jan. 7, Marlene Ruth was traveling slower than the speed limit on Sly Park Road. She was being careful, as it was threatening to snow. An hour earlier she had picked up her her car after having it fixed at Thompson’s Toyota, and was bringing her dogs home. A large black bird, possibly a crow, flew in front of the car and she swerved to avoid it, hitting a patch of ice and skidding into a tree.
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“Sly Park Road — it’s absolutely a danger,” Ruth said. “That ice is slick. I never saw it.” But, she says, people routinely go fast along the road, something she has consistently seen since she moved to Pollock Pines in 1975.
Ruth, who coincidentally had upgraded her insurance after turning 70 years old, escaped the wreck with a fractured hand and shoulder. She thinks the impact might have rattled her brain a bit, as she can’t quite think as clearly — “My brain feels like something happened” from the “horrific jolt” — but she escaped relatively uninjured from a crash that totaled the car. She noted that she did not pass out and saw the entire accident happen before her eyes, “little parts of the car flying everywhere.”
Meanwhile, her two dogs in the car collapsed on top of each other in the crash, but made it out unscathed, much to Ruth’s surprise. Thankfully, her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, was not in the car at the time, she said.
She does, however, have a mark where the seatbelt dug into her. “The seatbelt saved my life,” she said, though it still hurts. “It feels like a sailor’s rope around my stomach.”
After being taken to Marshall Hospital, where the service was “excellent,” Ruth was visited by an officer who told her she was lucky. Within an hour of her accident, another accident on Sly Park Road left Simeon Papkov dead and his daughter Lisa seriously injured.
“They might have passed me, seen the tow truck and everything,” Ruth said. “It was the ice. It had to be the ice.”
Ruth’s adult children later wrapped a purple ribbon around the tree to commemorate the accident and to warn others that the area is dangerous and that tree could eventually prove fatal. She knows of at least eight other deaths on the road since she moved to the county.
With the accidents and often being tailgated on the road, Ruth said she would like to see a change in the speed limit by making it lower. The area is beautiful, she said, and people should slow down and enjoy it — and possibly prevent accidents as a side effect.
Ruth said that, because of the injuries from her crash, she will probably have to cancel some meetings for the Parkinson’s Support Group that she runs, Ruth said. “I don’t like not being in control,” she said, something the accident has temporarily robbed her of. “Four ladies are looking after me, they kept telling me, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that.’”
The accident was a wakeup call to Ruth, she said. “When my kids come up from the Bay Area, and they want to go into town the first day,” Ruth said, “I tell them to not take that road.”