Fatal Accident Rubicon Trail near Truckee


Fatal Accident on Rubicon Trail near Truckee

I’m Ed Smith, a Truckee Wrongful Death Lawyer. One man was killed Sunday, June 25 in the El Dorado National Forest while riding with a friend on the famed Rubicon Trail.

What Happened?

27-year-old Kurt William Steever and 49-year-old John Gary Cawley were off-roading late at night alone in the Rubicon Wilderness area near Loon Lake. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Kurt, the driver of the 1986 Jeep, attempted to cross some tricky terrain and ended up rolling the vehicle. Steever was wearing his seatbelt but Cawley was not. During the roll-over, Cawley fell out of the off-road SUV while it was upside-down. As the vehicle continued, it rolled onto the ejected passenger.

The crushing weight of the Jeep and the impacts from the accident caused fatal injuries, and Gary Cawley was pronounced dead at the scene by El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputies. Deputies also determined that the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident, and alcohol was a possible factor in the situation. Kurt Seever received scratches and lacerations on his face but was spared from serious injury by his seatbelt. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment where he was picked up by California Highway Patrol officers and taken to jail. He has been charged with DUI and manslaughter.

The California Highway Patrol had a hard time locating the exact site of the roll-over to retrieve the body as there are no side roads close by to describe the location. They needed to ask the Sheriff’s office for latitude and longitude coordinates and recruited a helicopter to take photos from above of the scene.

How Did This Happen?

The Rubicon Trail is a technical and difficult off-road trail that challenges thousands of people every year. The trail is so famous that many events are held each summer where off-road and 4×4 enthusiasts bring their rigs for group rides. The best-equipped stick Jeep Wrangler is named after the trail where the company does extensive testing. While the trail has been significantly altered, and some would say the difficulty level has decreased, it still requires skill and a capable vehicle.

There are many spots where large tires, high clearance, and proper placement are essential to avoid flipping or badly damaging the vehicle. If Kurt Seever and Gary Cawley attempted the trail while drinking alcohol, the risk of danger increases dramatically. Off-roaders will often use a spotter outside the vehicle to help the driver know where to place his wheels during technical landscapes. Spotters can also identify the center of gravity of a vehicle and how it will react to steering wheel input.

The trail is also considered by the CHP to be a legal road even though it is not maintained like a normal highway. Because of this, DUI laws and restrictions still apply the same way just as people driving on a freeway. Off-roading is often an activity while camping, either alone or in big groups. It is important to keep in mind that operation of any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is dangerous no matter where you are, and in this case it was fatal.

Other Articles about Off-Roading


Car Accident Lawyer and Wrongful Death Attorney, Ed Smith

Truckee Car Accident Lawyer and Wrongful Death Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Truckee Wrongful Death Lawyer. If a member of your family or someone you love has died or sustained serious injuries because of an accident, give me a call at 530-392-9400 for friendly and free advice. Or call, free of charge, at 800-404-5400.

I have helped people and families in Truckee with personal injury and motor vehicle accident cases for nearly 35 years.

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