A Mendocino County woman, her two-year-old daughter, and her grandmother are still shaken after a lovely afternoon at the South Fork of the Eel River north of the Peg House in the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove turned terrifying–a driver appeared to deliberately ram his car over a concrete barrier, through a wooden fence and attempt to run them down.
The woman wants to remain anonymous because she is fearful that the driver may learn who they are and come after them in their homes.
On Monday, the young woman, her grandmother, and the young woman’s toddler went to one of her favorite spots.
“We had been at the river for maybe 2 hours,” she told us. “We were ready to go home and were walking up to my car.”
Just as they were almost to the parking lot which is right off Hwy 101, the peaceful day shattered. “My daughter who is almost two stopped to hug a redwood tree,” the woman explained. “I took a picture. As I was taking the picture, I heard a crunch.”
The woman said she thought it was possibly a car hitting a garbage can. She couldn’t see the parking lot from where she was, but her grandmother who was close by could. According to the young woman, her grandmother cried something like “Oh, that car!”
The woman says she isn’t sure but she thinks at that point she picked up her toddler and moved so she could look at the parking lot.
“I heard another crunch,” she said. “I thought it was an accident or they had hit my car.”
She could see a light blue sedan that had crashed through a cement barrier and then through a wooden barrier and was headed towards them. “It was in my grandma’s direction,” she said. “If he was going to hit someone, it would have been my grandma.”
She explained, “I stepped behind a tree…I thought, “Oh, maybe it was an accident like he put his foot on the gas.” But, then, she said she realized he was coming at them on purpose. “He started revving his engine and backing up,” she told us. “This guy’s crazy, said my grandma. ‘Run!'”
The woman told us, the fact he was revving the car and peeling out made it seem like he was after them. She said she didn’t have time to gather much information. “Especially having my daughter, I couldn’t stop,” she explained. “I just remember running. I don’t know why someone would choose to target not only my grandmother and me but my baby…?”
And so she ran. “I’m holding my daughter as tight as I can,” she said. “There were small trees in between us, a big log in front.”
They ran out through bushes and into the bed of a creek.
Even when they got into a creek bed, they didn’t want to stop, because as she explained, “I didn’t know if he had a gun…We ran across the creek bed. I called 911. I was on the phone with the cops.”
She said that when she first saw the blue car, she also saw in the parking lot behind it, a man on a Harley pulling a trailer on his phone. “I remember making eye contact,” she said. “I was seeing his eyes going from us to the guy to us. I remember seeing a white beard it, but it all happened so fast.”
They waited on the far side of the creek bed until law enforcement arrived about 30 minutes later she thinks. She carried her daughter and she and her grandmother walked back up to the parking lot, she told us.
“You could see where he came at us the first time,” she said. “The broken fence…The first tracks are pretty obvious. There are more to the left inside the fence where he came towards us the second time.”
The woman told us that she keeps hoping it was an accident, but she says, “I think if any normal person had done that they would have stopped and talked to us.” Also, she says, her grandmother reminds her that the person kept revving the car and coming at them.
She said that the law enforcement officers (she thinks they were park rangers) asked if she knew the driver or recognized the car, but she hadn’t. “They thought at first it was a road rage incident,” she told us. “It was just so strange.”
The officers interviewed her and they left to go look for the car.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that they had been called to assist the State Park rangers in the case. According to a brief message from their public information officer, Captain Greg Van Patton, the rangers believed the suspect vehicle had traveled south on Hwy 101, but the MCSO deputy hadn’t seen the vehicle as he came north.
The woman is hoping that someone, particularly the Harley rider will come forward with information. “The Harley was gold and maybe pulling a trailer,” the woman told us. “And maybe the guy had a white beard.”
Though the actual chase was short, she said it was intense. “I took a picture of my daughter at 2:20 and 2:23 I was running and calling 911.”
She is pretty sure the driver of the light blue sedan was male. Her grandmother thinks the vehicle may have had a manual transmission from the way “he was shifting… .” The vehicle likely has some damage from the collisions.
“I think I could identify the car,” she said.
If you have any information, contact the California State Park North Coast Redwood District Office and tell them you have information about a crime. Call (707) 445-6547.