CLEARLAKE, Calif. – As the Clearlake City Council was beginning its Thursday night meeting, Mayor Joey Luiz asked for community members to stand for a moment of silence to remember a young local woman who lost her life in a crash earlier this week.
He was speaking of Leah Davidson, who died Tuesday night in a single-vehicle rollover crash near Middletown.
The California Highway Patrol identified Davidson as having the last name Hernandez, based on information from her sister, Tamara Davidson, who also was involved in the crash, according to CHP Officer Kory Reynolds.
Susan Thompson, foster mother to one of Davidson’s sisters, told Lake County News that the young woman was known more commonly by the last name Davidson.
Davidson was a former Carle Continuation High School student who most recently had attended Yuba College, according to Thompson.
The 18-year-old Davidson, along with older sister Tamara, was riding in a Chrysler Sebring driven by 23-year-old Clearlake resident Nina Litzen when the crash occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday along Highway 29 near Hidden Valley Lake.
A witness told the CHP that the vehicle was swerving behind them and attempted to pass before going off the roadway and over an embankment.
The CHP said the vehicle missed a guardrail, went down the embankment where it hit a tree and rocks and then rolled over. Leah Davidson was thrown from the car and died at the scene.
Tamara Davidson and Litzen were flown by air ambulances to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the CHP said.
Litzen, who had a broken back, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to the CHP.
Some readers had posted on Lake County News’ Facebook page Wednesday, disputing the CHP investigation’s findings that Litzin had been driving, as Leah Davidson had been seen driving the car at one point that evening.
Officer Kory Reynolds told Lake County that witnesses placed Litzin behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
Thompson said she spoke about the discrepancy with Tamara Davidson, who said her sister had started out driving, but they stopped at a friend’s house and Litzen took the wheel.
Thompson said the young women also had reportedly been drinking earlier in the evening and weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Tamara Davidson suffered injuries to her foot, ribs and back, had whiplash and was nearly impaled by branches, said Thompson.
She was discharged from the hospital and on hand at Thursday’s meeting along with another sister, Julianna Hernandez. The two young woman sobbed as they spoke of their younger sister, who they called their “baby.”
Thompson also was at the meeting Thursday night, along with Mike Mix, who runs The Harbor on Main, a youth center in Lower Lake.
Mix asked everyone to speak to others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
She said a memorial service will be held for Leah Davidson at The Harbor on Main, located at 16170 Main St. in Lower Lake.
The event will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 19 – which would have been Davidson’s 19th birthday.
At the council meeting Thompson – a foster parent for Redwood Children’s Services – thanked community members for their support for the girls, who were orphaned several years ago.
She said they now are faced with the huge expense of burying their younger sister.
A bright young woman
Thompson told Lake County News in a Thursday night interview that she has known all of the sisters since they came into foster care, and is foster mother to one of Davidson’s sisters. Thompson said Davidson stayed with her a lot, and all of the girls called her “Mom.”
When Davidson turned 18 last year, she went into a transitional housing program offered by Redwood Children’s Services, Thompson said.
“She decided to strike out on her own around Christmas,” Thompson said.
Davidson was living with her sister in Clearlake, doing child care for North Coast Opportunities and had been taking classes at Yuba College, according to Thompson.
“She was a bright girl,” Thompson said of the young woman. “She had a wonderful spirit. She was tough on the outside and she was soft and sweet and gentle on the inside. She had a good heart. She would bend over backwards for her friends.”
Leah Davidson’s friends and family are now working to raise funds for her final arrangements.
“The young people, in their grieving, want to do something,” Thompson said.
A candlelight vigil for Davidson took place Thursday evening at Redbud Park. Thompson said they raised more than $100 at the event to go toward final arrangements.
Thompson said Davidson’s family has been touched by the support from the community, which has come forward to offer financial assistance and organize fundraisers.
On Saturday, there will be a car wash, bake sale and yard sale at Four Corners Builders Supply, 14975 Olympic Drive in Clearlake, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. All proceeds will go to help Davidson’s family cover burial costs.
Thompson said Redwood Children’s Services is going to assist with mortuary and memorial service costs.
The agency posted a message on its Facebook page Thursday asking for the community’s assistance in taking care “of our dear girl.”
“Leah was smart, had a beautiful smile and liked to joke around with staff. She will be greatly missed,” the post read.
A fund in Davidson’s memory has been set up at Mendo-Lake Credit Union, which has branches at 963 11th St. in Lakeport, 14866 Olympic Drive in Clearlake and and 626 South State St. in Ukiah.
Donations also can be dropped off at The Harbor on Main. For more information call Program Coordinator Jolene Chappel, 707-994-5486.
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] .