The controller for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority in South Lake Tahoe was killed Monday in a car crash off Kingsbury Grade that also injured LTVA Executive Director Terry LeBan.
Debra Kirk, 49, of Gardnerville sustained head injuries when the Dodge sedan she was driving drifted off the roadway near Tramway Drive at 6:40 a.m., the Nevada Highway Patrol reported. The eastbound vehicle plunged off the cliff, hitting a large rock about 200 feet below.
Kirk and LeBan were thrown from the car. LeBan suffered head injuries and was flown to Washoe Medical Center in Reno, where she was listed in fair condition Monday evening.
"She's extremely lucky," LTVA board President Deb Howard said while on a trip to Reno. The board was notified by the authorities that morning. "Our fingers are crossed, and our hopes and prayers are with Debra's family and with Terry," she said.
Howard briefly talked to LeBan, who told her she doesn't remember the crash.
"She's obviously distraught by the loss of her good friend and valued employee," Howard said. Kirk, who worked for LTVA for several years, is the single mother of two. "The death of Debra Kirk is a terrible waste," Howard said.
LTVA board treasurer Don Miner, who has worked with Kirk on several occasions, said he was shocked by the tragic accident. He called her a "diligent worker and a delightful person who will be sadly missed."
Miner added that the board is grateful that LeBan is expected to recover.
An autopsy is scheduled to be performed on Kirk's body today by the Douglas County Coroner's office. The crash is under investigation by the NHP.
NHP Trooper J. Troy Lindley said it's not known whether the two were wearing their seat belts, even though both were ejected.
"It is a rarity. But sometimes people do come out" of their seat belts after impact, Lindley said.
Douglas County sheriff's Sgt. Lance Modispacher said its officer on the scene reported it appeared the car "went straight off the embankment." Kingsbury Grade has hairpin turns, but the area where the crash occurred was not particularly curvy.
"Areas where you have hairpin turns are not necessarily where you have these accidents," the NHP's Lindley said. "We find a lot of fatals occur on straight, flat roadways because you don't have to pay as much attention."