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Three Kelseyville residents avoid tragedy in Sunday crash

Linda and Robin Unruh discuss the crash with the California Highway Patrol on Sunday, April 19, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

KELSEYVILLE – For two Riviera Heights residents a seemingly routine drive shopping trip to Lakeport on Sunday nearly turned tragic when they were hit by a speeding vehicle.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday Linda and Robin Unruh were headed westbound on Soda Bay road. They had just passed the Gaddy Lane intersection when a 1965 Chevy pickup traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed crossed into the westbound lane out of control and flipped over after skidding sideways for 60 feet.

The pickup landed upside down catching the front right corner of the Unruhs' 2003 Chrysler Sebring convertible, driven by Linda Unruh.

The pickup then continued several feet off the road, encountering a large log that slowed the truck's forward motion and aided in uprighting the vehicle, which then came to rest on all four wheels. The pickup's cab was nearly crushed to the door handles.

The California Highway Patrol identified the pickup's driver as Cheryl Hergert, also of Kelseyville, who scrambled out through the driver’s side window.

The Unruhs told CHP officers that Hergert had after – taking a quick look at the scene – said she was in a hurry. Hergert told the CHP that she was responding to a family emergency, stating that she had learned that a snake had bitten her 14-year-old son and she was rushing to his aid.

The couple also told the CHP officers that Hergert offered an extra $1,000 cash over and above any insurance pay out if they agreed to not call the police.

Hergert estimated her speed at 60 miles per hour while rounding a gentle curve in a 50-mile-per-hour zone. By the skidmarks, CHP Officer Efrain Cortez Jr. estimated Hergert was driving around 70 miles per hour.

Kelseyville Fire medics examined the Unruhs and Hergert and found that they all were remarkably unhurt. All parties had been wearing seat belts.

After the examination the medics proceeded to an address on Jamie Lane in Kelseyville from where, according to Hergert, her 14-year-old son had called his father to report that he had been bitten by an unknown type of snake. Hergert told officials that the boy’s father then called her and she was responding to the Jamie Lane address.

Once on scene the Kelseyville Fire medics, along with Search and Rescue personnel, conducted a search of the home and its surrounding area. Several neighbors, familiar with the boy’s habits and favorite hideouts, assisted in the search, some of them climbing a steep hill just behind the home a favored play area for the young man.

Kelseyville Fire official Brian Burnham coordinated the half dozen Kelseyville Fire personnel on the ground with the Lake County Sheriff's Office and a CalStar helicopter flying overhead.

Burnham explained that three years ago the boy, known to wander, had climbed the steep hill and had managed to make his way to Soda Bay. They were following a familiar path.

The search turned up no sign of the boy, who later was located in Lakeport just before 4 p.m. at the Lakeport Cinema. Lake County Sheriff's officials verified his location and the search was discontinued. The would-be rescuers returned to station 55, the Cal-Star helicopter was released from the scene and a sheriff’s deputy was left with many unanswered questions.

Back at the original scene CHP Officer Cortez said Hergert is likely to be cited for excessive speed and reckless driving. Both drivers had valid driver’s licenses and provided proper registration and insurance documents.

Officer Cortez and the Unruhs agreed that had they been just 4 feet further down the road the convertible would not have fared as well and their trip to town would have ended in a distinctly different manner.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




The search takes place for Cheryl Hergert's 14-year-old son on Jamie Lane in Kelseyville on Sunday, April 19, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

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