A 30-year-old woman and her two young daughters remain missing and are presumed dead after the car they were in plunged approximately 500 feet down an embankment off State Route 96 north of Orleans on Sunday into the Klamath River.
Orleans resident Elizabeth Anne Palmer was driving her Toyota Yaris southbound at about 7:20 p.m. in snowy and rainy conditions with her 4-year-old and 18-month-old girls when she lost control of the car.
Passenger Jose Paredes Chavez, 41, of Orleans was able to escape the car and climb back up to the roadway, where he found a Caltrans employee who summoned help. Chavez suffered minor to moderate injuries.
“Due to the extreme weather and roadway conditions, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Trinity County Search and Rescue, CHP helicopter, and Coast Guard were unable to locate the vehicle and its remaining occupants,” the CHP press release states. “The disposition of Ms. Palmer and the children cannot be confirmed at this time.”
CHP Willow Creek is investigating the crash. Humboldt County Search and Rescue is handling the recovery efforts, which will begin when weather and river conditions permit.
"Due to the high water flows of the Klamath River and the adverse weather conditions, the CHP has not been able to safely begin any recovery operations of the vehicle or its occupants. When the river flows and weather conditions allow for a recovery effort to locate the vehicle, the CHP will coordinate those efforts with the assistance of Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. CHP will provide an update when a recovery effort is completed," an updated CHP release stated on Tuesday.
Read the full CHP release below:
On March 5, 2017 at approximately 7:20 P.M., 30 year old Elizabeth Anne Palmer of Orleans was driving her Toyota Yaris southbound on HWY 96, north of Orleans (MM 41). 41 year old Jose Paredes Chavez of Orleans was seated in the front passenger seat; a 4 year old and 18 month old were seated in the rear passenger area. For reasons still under investigation, Ms. Palmer lost control of her vehicle, drifted in a westerly direction off the roadway, continuing down an embankment (approximately 500’) into the Klamath River. It was dark and there was a mixture of snow and rain falling in the area.
Mr. Chavez was able to escape, climb back up to the roadway, and contact a CalTrans employee. Emergency services were requested at this time.
Emergency personnel from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department, Willow Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Happy Camp Ambulance, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol (Willow Creek) and Hoopa Ambulance responded to the scene to provide emergency services.
Due to the extreme weather and roadway conditions, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Trinity County Search and Rescue, CHP helicopter, and Coast Guard were unable to locate the vehicle and its remaining occupants. The disposition of Ms. Palmer and the children cannot be confirmed at this time.
Mr. Chavez was transported to Mad River Community Hospital with minor to moderate injuries. A joint effort is currently underway in an attempt to locate the missing parties. CHP Willow Creek is handling the collision investigation. Humboldt County Search and Rescue is handling the recovery efforts.
Editor's note: This story was updated with information that recovery efforts have been delayed by weather and river conditions.