Forest Service Battalion Chief Killed in Head On Collision


Forest Service Battalion Chief Killed in Head On Collision

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno truck accident lawyer. Services were recently held in Santa Maria following the death of a U.S. Forest Service battalion chief who died in a collision head on along Route 41. The accident victim had been stationed at Santa Maria in connection with the Los Padres National Forest.

What Happened

The accident happened August 31 when Gary Helming, age 47, was heading south along Route 41. The California Highway Patrol reported that 25-year-old Antonio Avalos, was coming from the other direction when a tire on his service truck deflated, and he lost control of the vehicle, hitting Helming’s vehicle head-on. The crash resulted in Helming’s death and caused major injuries to the other driver.  The accident is under investigation by the CHP; however, drugs and alcohol are not thought to have contributed to the crash.


Chief Helming was a native of El Cajon and had worked as a firefighter with the Forest Service for 22 years. A previous employee of the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, he had just returned to the Forest Service in 2013. He leaves behind a wife and three children, along with their families.

Dangers of Route 41

According to an officer with the CHP, that particular stretch of road is the scene of many accidents. He said that the stretch of two-lane road is patrolled daily by the CHP, and although the speed is limited to 55 mph, they realize people are not obeying the speed limit. He added that another problem was slower traffic, perhaps pulling a trailer toward Pismo Beach or another location. When traffic backs up, a driver in a hurry might try to pass unsafely, and that was the reason for many of the head-on collisions.

Incidence of Head On Collisions

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, head on collisions more commonly occur in areas that are rural rather than urban and make up 13 percent of all accident fatalities that occur along rural roads. Fatalities in urban areas caused by head on collisions account for 7 percent of all traffic deaths.

Reasons for Head On Collisions

Reasons Tire Blowouts Happen

The reasons tire blowouts happen are varied and include:

  • Heat: The season during which most tire blowouts happen runs from May through October when the heat is the highest.
  • Underinflation: Inadequate air pressure in the tires causes the tire components to overwork and snap.
  • Road Obstacles: Running into road obstacles.
  • Overloading: Carrying more cargo than the tires can handle.
  • Potholes: Driving into potholes can damage the tires. There are times this is difficult to avoid, yet state and city governments are responsible for keeping roads as hazard free as possible.
  • Slow leaks: Check for slow leaks

How to Handle a Blowout

The National Safety Council offers good advice on how to handle a tire blowout.

  • Grip the wheel firmly at the first sign of trouble.
  • Don’t hit the brakes. Stop giving the vehicle gas to slow down.
  • Try to steer off the road into a side lane or an exit if possible. Sitting in traffic can be dangerous.
  • Use your signals if changing lanes is necessary.
  • Use your brakes once the vehicle has slowed down.
  • Turn on emergency flashers.

Fresno Truck Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno truck accident lawyer. If you have been injured or a family member was killed by a negligent truck driver, it is important that you have experienced legal representation. Call me anytime at (559) 377-7676 for friendly and free advice. If you are outside the area, use my toll-free number (800) 404-5400 to reach me.

I’ve served as an injury lawyer for more than 35 years and have assisted clients to obtain the compensation they need and deserve when they are injured by wrongful deaths and traumatic injuries.

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