Coarsegold Couple Killed in Highway 41 Crash

November 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
An elderly couple from Coarsegold was killed in a head on collision on Highway 41. The accident occurred at Rocky Cut, a half mile stretch where the highway squeezes through a narrow and dangerous canyon. Sgt. Taylor Cooper of the California Highway Patrol explained what happened: "The elderly driver drifted off the road, hit a large rock and the vehicle overturned and struck a pickup truck travelling Southbound."

The 85 year old woman who was driving and her 89 year old husband died instantly in the collision. A couple in the vehicle they hit, a white pickup truck sustained moderate injuries and were hospitalized in Madera.

The accident closed Highway 41 for several hours. But when it reopened, things were quickly back to "normal." Karen Getty Hopkins of Clovis says that means dangerously. "Even coming up knowing there was an accident people were just driving crazy. They pass you, they drive too fast, I think it's a very dangerous road."

Residents of foothill communities share the road with travelers to Yosemite and the Chuckchansi Casino. Cal Trans figures show traffic on Highway 41 has increased 70 per cent in past 8 years. 20 thousand cars a day pass through Rocky Cut.

CHP Commandeer Dave Paris says it's simply an old mountain road, with lots of traffic. "It was originally a covered wagon roadway that is turned into a modern day highway."He said.

Paris acknowledges the hazards of the road but said the real danger is those who drive on it.

"If people drive reasonably and use caution, maintain control of their vehicle it's no different from Highway 99 or I-5." He said.

Many like Kathy Whitehead Musacchio of Clovis agree motorists who speed, and pass carelessly are the real hazard.

"I grew up up here. Learned to ride on this road. Drive on this road. It's not the road it's the people that drive it."

But, Coarsegold resident Vicki Glazner says it is an unforgiving roadway. Especially at Rocky Cut.

Vicki: "I think anyone that lives up here is concerned every time they take that road down there and back. You can be careful but you have to worry about the other guy."

According to Highway Patrol estimates, about 50 people have been killed on the stretch of Highway 41 that runs from the Fresno County line to Yosemite National Park in the past six years.

Last August three women who worked at the Chuckchansi Casino were killed in a head on collision just a few miles South of Tuesday's mishap.

The names of the elderly couple killed in that crash have not yet been made public.