UPDATE: The two U.S. Forest Service firefighters that died in this traffic collision have been identified as 29 year old Dale Alexander Mendes of Willow Creek (Driver) and 19 year old Jason Fritz Price, Jr. of Weitchpec (Right front passenger).
WILLOW CREEK – This afternoon , July 9, a citizen reported to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) Willow Creek unit of an overturned vehicle in the Trinity River near Kimtu Beach. The CHP and other emergency personnel responded to the scene and located an overturned black Toyota SUV submerged in the Trinity River with two deceased occupants. A preliminary investigation indicates the vehicle drove off Seeley McIntosh Road sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
It was previously reported to the CHP Redding Communications Center that two U.S. Forest Service firefighters left work in Salyer Wednesday night and never showed up for work Thursday morning. CHP and Humboldt County Sheriff Department units searched possible travel routes and were initially unable to locate the missing firefighters or their vehicle.
The two deceased occupants are confirmed to be that of the two missing firefighters. The identification of the two victims are being withheld until their families are notified.
The California Highway Patrol Humboldt Area office is investigating this traffic collision. Our thoughts are with the U.S. Forest Service and the community of Willow Creek in the loss of two firefighters dedicated to serving their community.