Investigators probe fatal accident
May 31, 2006
Nevada Highway Patrol investigators spent Thursday morning examining the scene of a fatal accident on Highway 208 in Topaz Ranch Estates.
Darrell David Daugherty, 90, was killed on Highway 208 at Albite Road at about 2:20 p.m. May 26 when a pickup collided with the rear of his Ford Taurus. According to the Nevada Highway Patrol’s preliminary report, Daugherty pulled out in front of a gold pickup driven by Windie L. Atchison of Wellington. But witnesses who’ve come forward since the accident say Daugherty was making a left turn onto Albite.
Holbrook resident Tracy Vienneau was in front of Daugherty and had turned onto Albite when she heard the crash.
“I had left Topaz Lodge and turned on to Highway 208,” she said. “A little ways down the road I noticed a little silver car behind me but he was quite a ways back. I turned on my signal to turn left (on Albite). When I turned all I saw was the little car sliding and things flying everywhere. The guy was turning onto Albite, his signal light was on, I saw it. He had his signal light on, I saw them.”
As Vienneau made the turn on to Albite she saw what happened in the rear view mirror and heard the noise of the accident.
“It was the loudest kaboom I ever heard in my life,” she said. “I just don’t want this family or this gentleman blamed for something he didn’t do. It just isn’t fair. I just want the family to know he didn’t do something wrong.”
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Daugherty’s daughter, Gardnerville resident Sharon Bushnell, said her father purchased groceries at 1:08 p.m. in south Carson City.
“I found the receipt in the wreckage,” she said. “We parted for lunch and he went to the grocery store. He was an hour from home and he never exceeded the speed limit.”
Bushnell is convinced her father was stopped on Highway 208 making a left turn onto Albite and that the person who hit him didn’t see him until it was too late.
South Lake Tahoe resident Jenn Gray was a passenger in a car following the pickup which struck Daugherty’s Taurus. She, her fiancé, a friend and her friend’s husband were in the vehicle. They were on their way to Las Vegas.
“We were on Highway 208 going between 65 and 70 mph and I was looking around because I’d never been through there before,” she said. “I did not see his car, but I did see a car making a right turn onto 208.”
The first they saw of the Taurus was after they heard a crash and saw Daugherty’s car skidding across the road.
“I heard the crash and immediately saw his car skidding across the road and then spin one half turn,” she said. “My fiancé pulled off the side of the road and jumped out of the car.”
Gray and her friend ran to Daugherty and tried to get to him.
“I tried to open the door, but we could tell it was crushed, there was no way I could open it,” she said. “I tried to reach him from behind, but I couldn’t reach him. My friend is taller and was able to reach in, but she couldn’t feel a pulse.”
Gray said she noticed groceries were strewn around the wreckage of the Taurus.
“We saw groceries lying on the ground and they didn’t look like they’d been there a long time,” she said. “It looked like they’d fallen out after the car came to rest.”
She said she didn’t see Daugherty’s car on Albite.
“I believe 100 percent he was on 208 turning left,” she said. “I know for a fact he was not turning left onto the highway.”
Bushnell said her father lived in Topaz Ranch Estates for 34 years and had made the turn onto Albite thousands of times.
“He was a professional driver,” she said. “He drove big rigs and was also a Greyhound bus driver. He had just had his insurance renewed and he had zero points on his record. He prided himself on his driving.”
Bushnell said there was no reason for Daugherty to make a left turn onto the highway.
“I just want justice for dad,” she said. “If he did something illogical that would be one thing, but he still had these groceries in the back of the car. He kept an ice chest in the trunk.”
Bushnell keeps coming back to the timing.
“Maybe he turned left (onto Highway 208 from Albite) for no reason, but that seems to be the most unlikely case,” she said. “It takes an hour to get down there and that brings him right there at that horrible moment in time, to make his left onto Albite. The grocery receipt is exculpatory.”
Daugherty lived at Lake Tahoe before he moved to Topaz Ranch Estates in the 1970s. His wife died about six years ago, which is when Bushnell and her husband moved to Gardnerville to be close to him.
“He was an amazing 90-year-old,” she said. “He handled all of his own financial matters. He was living on his own. I talked to him two or three times a day and knew his pattern. He was predictable.”