NEVADA CITY, Calif. September 10, 2016 – At approximately 12:33 PM on Friday afternoon, Nevada City resident Gerald M. Bockting, age 85, driving a Ford Explorer was driving eastbound on the Golden Center Freeway, SR-20/49 E/B, east of the overcrossing of Banner Lava Cap Rd. For an undetermined reason, he caused the Ford to drift smoothly toward the right edge of the road where it continued off the east road edge at freeway speeds. The Ford went down a steep embankment approximately 80 feet and through a CalTrans metal fence. It then proceeded through a field until it struck a large tree at high speed, causing it to stop very near the parking lot of a nursery business in the area, with witnesses standing nearby. The severe impact with the tree caused a rupture in the fuel system in the Ford; it subsequently caught fire.
A CalFire division chief had been driving eastbound some distance behind the Ford and witnessed it go off of the roadway. There was no observed reason for the vehicle to leave the freeway. The CalFire chief exited the freeway at Gold Flat Rd. and drove to the scene while summoning a full response from emergency personnel. In the meantime, witnesses near the nursery began extinguishing the fire using an extinguisher and water hoses.
Additional emergency personnel responded to the scene with CHP personnel. The fire was extinguished rapidly, due in part to the quick action of the witnesses at the nursery. Unfortunately, Mr. Bockting had sustained severe injuries during the collision. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.
CHP is handling the ongoing investigation. The possibility of a medical emergency in conjunction with this collision is being investigated. It is unknown whether drugs or alcohol contributed to the collision.
The SR-20/49 freeway remained open throughout the investigation. Other agencies responding to this incident were the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department, CalFire, the Nevada City Fire Department, Sierra Nevada Ambulance service, and Caltrans.