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Fog not a factor in I-80 Newcastle double fatal: CHP

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The California Highway Patrol has ruled out fog as a factor in a collision on Interstate 80 at Newcastle that left two people dead. Conditions were foggy at the time of the 3:30 a.m. accident Tuesday on eastbound I-80. But Officer Dave Montijo of the Highway Patrol’s Auburn office said that investigators have ruled out poor visibility from fog as the reason for the crash. The initial Highway Patrol report stated visibility was limited to 100 yards. The investigation is centered instead on what is being seen as a fatal error by crash victim Christopher Dann, 21, of Auburn. The CHP reported he was seen driving the wrong way on the freeway by several witnesses as he traveled west on eastbound I-80. Dann and the driver of an eastbound vehicle were killed in the fiery wrong-way crash. The Placer County Coroner's Office identified the second victim today. Identification and contact of next of kin was delayed because the coroner's office had to use dental records. Jessica Ann Faber, 18, of Huntington Beach, was named as the driver of a Hyundai Elantra that Dann’s Infiniti G20 collided with head-on. On Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol reported that Dann, a California State University, Long Beach student who had returned to Auburn for the Christmas break, was driving the wrong way on the freeway before his car collided with the vehicle driven by Faber. Faber and Dann died at the scene of the crash. Faber's car burned after the collision. A passenger in Faber's vehicle - 23-year-old Gregory Wessels - was taken to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento with burns and other major injuries. He was listed in serious condition after admission. Faber had initially been identified as a Truckee resident by the Highway Patrol. Montijo said that the initial report of a Truckee residence was the result of information the CHP obtained that her family owns property in the Sierra community. Results of the coroner’s autopsy are expected in at least a week, including information on possible drug and alcohol levels in the deceased, he said. The Highway Patrol’s report may be completed by the middle of next month, Montijo said. Still a mystery is why Dann was driving at the speed limit for at least three miles in the wrong direction. He was first spotted in the vicinity of Auburn about three miles from the crash site. All freeway exits are marked with warning signs for drivers to avoid making a wrong-way entry, said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger. In addition, the pavement reflectors on the lane dividers have red reflectors at the back to warn drivers they are going the wrong way, he said. Montijo said that if someone gets turned around on a road, they should pull to the side and wait to safely turn the vehicle around to drive in the correct direction.