Icy roads leave Kings Beach inmate dead
KINGS BEACH DEFlurries of snow and cold temperatures early on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 17 left a sheen of ice on area roads that would prove fatal before the onset of the mid-morning thaw.
At around 7:15 a.m., a prisoner transport van overturned travelling eastbound between Auburn and Tahoe City.
Gary Lee Williams, a Kings Beach resident of 14 years, was killed in the wreck. Two other inmates were injured but survived. The sheriff’s deputy driving the van was uninjured.
The California Vehicle Code allows a seatbelt exemption for jail transportation. The inmates were wearing belly chains and handcuffs, but no seatbelts, according to the CHP.
The California Highway Patrol in Gold Run, in whose jurisdiction the prisoner van crashed, reported four rollovers in the vicinity. The Truckee CHP reported 14 accidents and nine injuries last Thursday.
Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., within a two-mile stretch of Interstate 80 near the California-Nevada boarder, three separate automobiles overturned. A fourth car rolled soon after along Highway 89 just north of Tahoe City.
Williams, 53, was en-route to a court appearance at the Burton Creek courthouse. He had been arrested on Jan. 10 for driving under the influence.
Family and friends said Williams was a free-spirited outdoorsman, a community volunteer, and a loving father, who had struggled with alcohol in recent years.
Every year he raced in the legendary annual Kamikaze mountain bike race at Mammoth Mountain, and once finished in the top 10, according to his family. He was a smokejumper out of Redding in his 20s, and a member of the National Ski Patrol. He worked as a carpenter, and is singled out for his craftsmanship and woodwork.
“He’s done so much,” said his ex-wife Linda. “Everything you can think of outside he did. He climbed the walls in Yosemite. He sailed around South America. He used to catch trains down to Mexico to the Mayan ruins every summer in college and hang around with monkeys.”
Williams is survived by his 13-year old daughter Deja, and his adult stepdaughter Sheena. Ex-wife Linda said that although divorced, the two were still extremely close.
Williams was going to the Safeway when he was pulled over and arrested for DUI. Williams had struggled with drinking in recent years, according to those who knew him.
“Drinking was a very difficult thing for him, but I really want him to be remembered in a positive way,” wife Linda said. “He just loved everybody. We look at him like he’s a St. Bernard puppy.”
Information regarding funeral and services is pending results of the autopsy.