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Wind, alcohol linked to Mono County crashes

February 10, 2014

High winds between Lee Vining and Bridgeport caused this 33-foot fifth-wheel trailer to overturn, partially blocking traffic on U.S. 395 Saturday night. Photo submitted

The Bridgeport California Highway Patrol Office and Mono County Sheriff’s Department were kept busy with traffic incidents this past weekend.
Just past midnight on Saturday morning, Mono County sheriff’s officers alerted CHP to a solo, non-injury vehicle accident near Walker/Coleville with the driver possibly under the influence of alcohol.
A CHP officer responded with a Mono County deputy already on scene. CHP initiated the investigation and determined that the driver, Lee G. Copeland, 46, of Amarillo, Texas, had been unable to maneuver a right curve, left the roadway and struck the embankment along the southbound shoulder of U.S. 395, ending up approximately 20 feet up the embankment.
Copeland stated that he had been traveling north and crossed the double yellow line to avoid an elk in the roadway. The officer determined that Copeland was under the influence of alcohol and placed him under arrest. The vehicle, a passenger van, was towed and Copeland was required to complete a breath test. He was booked into Mono County Jail.
That evening shortly after 7 p.m., officers were called out to an overturned vehicle/fifth-wheel trailer blocking U.S. 395 nine miles north of Lee Vining.
The CHP Communications Center had received a call from Scott Alvarez of Reno, Nev. notifying them of the accident. He and his wife, Colette Alvarez, had been towing a 33-foot fifth wheel with their Dodge Ram pickup when a wind gust overturned the trailer causing Alvarez to lose control of the vehicle. The vehicle combination struck a guide post marker, a speed limit sign and a barbed-wire perimeter fence. The trailer was lying on its side partially blocking traffic lanes; the Dodge was upright but partially over an embankment. Neither of the Alvarezes were injured.
CHP officers temporarily closed both directions of U.S 395 as a tow truck cleared the scene.
Alvarez had driven past a high wind warning on the state Department of Transportation’s Changeable Message Signs shortly before the accident. Due to the high winds, the CHP restricted travel on U.S. 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport from 8-10 p.m. Additional officers were called in to prevent high-profile vehicles or vehicles towing trailers from using that portion of the highway. Drivers were given the option of waiting or taking an alternative route into Nevada.

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