Olympic Valley man charged with attempted murder

SQUAW VALLEY -- A late-night fight proved nearly fatal Sunday when one man allegedly struck another with his car in the Squaw Valley Ski Resort parking lot, then dragged him a quarter -mile under his car, the Placer County Sheriff's Office reported.

The injured man remains hospitalized at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, and the driver is charged with attempted murder, authorities said.

After leaving a bar at the base of Squaw Valley between 1 and 2 a.m. Sunday, Mathew David Haff of Olympic Valley and Thomas Hans Berenbak Jr. of Tahoe City reportedly exchanged blows. Investigators said Berenbak had approached Haff, who was driving out of the parking lot, to tell him he was going too fast.

Haff sped away after an exchange of words, striking Berenbak with his vehicle and dragging him through the parking lot onto Squaw Valley Road. Berenbak, 31, became untangled from the car near the post office.

Off-duty Squaw Valley ski patroller Matt Stanton was driving home when he saw something in the road.

"We thought it was a garbage bag or a pile of clothes or something, then right as we got to him, he popped his head up, and we saw it was a person," said Stanton. "I called 911 and monitored his vital signs."

M.C. Constantinescu was leaving PlumpJack's when he saw his friend Dean Conway running frantically after a car in the parking lot. Conway had witnessed the scuffle and directed his friend to follow the car, shouting, "There's a guy pinned under that car."

"By the time E [Conway] got in, the car was already halfway across the parking lot," said Constantinescu. "Half way across the parking lot, we could see in the tracks that there was definitely someone under the car."

When they pulled up to the scene, Stanton had just discovered Berenbak, and together they covered the injured man with blankets and towels from Constantinescu's car.

Squaw Valley Fire Department Capt. Mike Gallagher commended the efforts of the first on the scene. "They did a great job of protecting him -- they'd positioned their cars so they wouldn't be struck, and they did the best they could to keep him warm," he said.

Gallagher arranged for an air ambulance to fly Berenbak to Washoe Medical Center from Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee.

He is in stable condition and will remain hospitalized through the week, the sheriff's office said Tuesday.

Haff, 28, is charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with means of force likely to cause great bodily harm and two counts of hit-and-run causing injury or death. He is being held without bail.

Haff pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a Jan. 28 preliminary hearing.


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