Friday, 19 July 2024


KELSEYVILLE – Besides keeping an eye on the extra holiday activities, a local California Highway Patrol officers found himself chasing down a man suspected of stealing a car on Saturday.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia reported Tuesday that at 10:22 p.m. Saturday CHP Officer Robert Hearn spotted 31-year-old Clearlake resident Erik Wayne Sutch's 1992 Saturn crossing the double-yellow lines on Point Lakeview Drive near Fairway Drive in the Clear Lake Riviera.

Hearn attempted a traffic stop of Sutch, Garcia reported, but rather than pull over, Sutch took off, driving recklessly into Lower Lake.

Sutch was unable to negotiate a left turn onto Mill Street from Main Street and ended up hitting a utility pole, said Garcia.

After hitting the pole, Sutch attempted to flee on foot, said Garcia, but was taken into custody a short time later.

Why he attempted to run may be explained by the CHP's discovery the following day that the vehicle had been stolen from Kelseyville shortly before the chase occurred, according to Garcia.

Sutch, whose occupation is listed as mechanic on his booking sheet, faces charges, including felony vehicle theft, possession of narcotic controlled substances, evading a peace officer and bringing a controlled substance into a jail, and misdemeanors including driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, obstructing a peace officer, and hit and run with property damage.

Sutch has since posted bail and been released from the Lake County Jail.

Garcia said it's important for the public to remember to lock vehicles and secure keys in a safe place to deter theft.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The message should be clear to anyone ... STOP! Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY Attention motorists: Be on the lookout for several very large, bright yellow vehicles once again crisscrossing our city streets and country roads starting this week.

On Tuesday, all of Lake County's schools will be open for business and dozens of school buses will be back to work.

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The buses will roll out of bus barns early in the morning from every school district and for the next 180 school days the drivers, transportation managers and the California Highway Patrol want to remind motorists of the hazards as well as the consequences of failing to abide by the laws regarding school bus safety.


The most common traffic violation relating to school buses is the failure to stop for a school bus while it is stopped for loading or unloading passengers, according to CHP Officer Mike Humble, who oversees the local CHP school bus driver program.

In order to put greater focus on traffic laws relating to school bus safety, Humble said new regulations have been implemented for both school bus drivers and the general driving public.

In the past, bus operators were required to begin flashing the red lights on the bus only when the bus was not in motion, said David Norris, director of transportation for Lakeport Unified School District.

These days state law requires each driver to activate a set of amber lights at least 200 feet from the next intended bus stop, thereby warning motorists of the bus's intention to stop, Norris added.

Once stopped, and before the doors open, the flashing red lights will indicate that all vehicles traveling in all directions must come to a full and complete stop, Norris explained.


Failure to stop puts the children as well as the bus driver in danger of injury, said Humble.

Though the numbers vary by district, roughly 35 percent of the county's students and their parents rely on these buses to get to and from school safely, according to information provided by local school districts.

The drivers are well trained and continually tested, said Humble.

The buses are likewise inspected frequently and must be maintained to very high standards, with safety equipments updated regularly, according to Norris. At a district level, he added, buses also go through annual safety checks.

That leaves the average motorist the one uncontrollable variable in the school bus safety equation. As a result CHP and county transportation officials ask that motorists familiarize themselves with bus stop locations whenever possible.

Officials indicate the while the problem occurs throughout the county the most active locations for bus stop violations occur in areas such as downtown Lakeport, where the roadway offers a middle two-way turn lane. Many drivers believe this allows them an opportunity to pass the bus safely.

Drivers also should be on the lookout for students approaching the bus stops as well as those actually loading and unloading, said Humble.

Other factors that every driver should consider are tailgating, stopping short and trying to beat the flashing lights by accelerating around a bus before it comes to a full stop, said Humble.

Whether you're traveling on busy Highway 20 or in the hills of Nice, downtown Lakeport or the main drag of Middletown, patience and awareness of your surroundings is paramount, said Humble.

The penalties for failing to stop can be steep. If convicted of violating section 22454 of the California Vehicle Code, a motorist can count on a fine of $150 for the first offense. A second offense will bring a fine of between $500 and $1000. Further violations can result in a suspension of driving privileges for one year.


It's the average motorist's responsibility to adhere to regulations and the common sense rules of the road. Bus-related injuries are rare in Lake County, thanks to the diligent work of all the transportation professionals responsible for so many lives.



E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


A Cal Fire helicopter prepares to land at the Aug. 25 Spring Valley emergency preparedness event. Photo by Jim Hershey.

SPRING VALLEY The county’s first “Islands of Humanity Emergency Preparedness Day,” held Aug. 25, was a success as Spring Valley residents turned out to be educated and entertained by county, state and national agencies.

The event, the first in the series for isolated communities around the lake, drew almost 100 families who actively participated in the process that focused on this community’s emergency issues.

Moderated by District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, a panel consisting of 10 agency representatives answered questions posed by the residents throughout a 90-minute meeting.

During and after the meeting, the residents took advantage of a rare opportunity to enjoy up close and personal contact with the equipment and personnel of the agencies present.

Children and adults alike enjoyed new experiences like sitting in a Cal Fire helicopter and taking a short but exciting fire engine ride.

Tours of the county’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center and Northshore Fire Protection District’s ambulance and engines allowed residents a close-up view of the services that exist to protect them.

Sponsored by the Lake County Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Supervisor Rushing, the supporting agencies included Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, Northshore Fire Protection, the county Department of Health Services, American Red Cross, Special Districts, the state Department of Fish and Game, Lake County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and Animal Care and Control.

Yolo County Flood Control also participated due to the close relationship between it and the residents of Spring Valley.

Focused on the local community and the hazards that may affect it, emergency preparedness events provide an opportunity for residents to hear answers provided by experts.

From the agencies' point of view, the events provide them with an opportunity to prepare residents for future emergencies and to make sure that the public has a clear path to preparedness. The agencies also made it clear they welcome the opportunity to attract volunteers to help serve the community.

In planning for November, the next emergency preparedness event will take place in the community of Hidden Valley Lake.




Officials from emergency response agencies throughout the county attended the meeting to talk about safety to Spring Valley residents. Pictured, right to left, are Loren Freeman, Department of Fish and Game; Pam Plank, American Red Cross; Tim O

CLEARLAKE – An accident that took place late Monday night sent three people to the hospital and resulted in an arrest for driving under the influence.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia said the accident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Joseph Edward Lawson, 43, of Clearlake was driving a 1989 GMC Blazer on a dirt road east of Davis Street near the Lake County Landfill when the accident occurred, Garcia reported.

Lawson was traveling on a downgrade and drove over the road edge, rolling down a steep embankment before coming to rest approximately 150 feet from the road, according to Garcia.

Riding with Lawson were 38-year-old Shawn Hammond and Patrick Robinson, 34, both of Clearlake, said Garcia.

The three men were able to climb out of the wrecked Blazer before emergency personnel arrived, Garcia added.

While Lawson was flown by REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with injuries that later turned out to be minor, Garcia said Hammond and Patrick were transported to Redbud Hospital with moderate injuries.

Lawson later was released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where CHP officer picked him up and arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.

CHP transported Lawson, who works as a painter according to his booking sheet, to the Lake County Jail where he was booked for felony DUI.

He remained in jail Tuesday on $10,000 bail.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LOWER LAKE – A Friday evening crash killed one driver and seriously injured another.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the collision took place at 7:30 p.m. on Point Lakeview Road east of Highway 29.

William Jeffrey Shephard, 18, of Kelseyville was driving his 1991 Jeep eastbound on Point Lakeview Road at an undetermined speed, according to the report. Coming from the opposite direction was a 1986 Toyota driven by a 48-year-old Kelseyville man whose identity has not yet been released.

The CHP reported that, for an unknown reason, Shephard turned his Jeep to the left and crossed the double yellow lines into the oncoming, westbound lane of Point Lakeview.

The other driver turned to the right in an attempt to avoid being struck by Shephard, but couldn't avoid the resulting head-on collision, the CHP reported.

Despite the fact that he was wearing his seat belt, the second driver died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the collision, according to the CHP.

Shephard, who also was wearing his seat belt, sustained severe injuries, including facial fractures and a chest contusion, the CHP reported. He was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital via REACH helicopter.

The CHP reported that it was determined that Shephard was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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SACRAMENTO – Saying boats and boating recreation are at risk, several state agencies have put out a call asking boaters and watercraft users to help stop the spread of quagga mussels throughout California.

The invasive quagga mussels and their cousin, the zebra mussel, also are on the radar of Lake County officials, who have sent lake samples to labs in Oregon and Colorado to test for the mussels' presence. So far, Clear Lake has tested negative for the mussels, but tests are ongoing, as Lake County News reported late last week.

Should quagga and zebra mussels make it into Clear Lake, they could travel through Cache Creek and into the Bay-Delta, which the state Department of Water Resources reports serves as a water source for 25 million Californians.

With recent quagga mussel finds along the Nevada-California border and then in Southern California, the state is particularly concerned about Riverside County’s Lake Skinner and San Diego County’s Lower Otay Reservoir, Lake Dixon, and San Vicente Reservoir, all of which permit recreational access.

"With quagga mussels on the move from the Nevada border to inland San Diego County, we need the public’s help to keep them from going farther," said Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman. "Once the quagga are established in a waterway, they have significant environmental, recreational and economic impacts."

Although they range from microscopic to the size of a fingernail, the mussels are prolific breeders and attach themselves to hard and soft surfaces, such as boats and aquatic plants.

Quagga mussels affect boaters negatively because they:

  • Ruin your engine by blocking the cooling system – causing overheating.

  • Increase drag on the bottom of your boat, reducing speed and wasting fuel.

  • Jam steering equipment on boats.

  • Require scraping and repainting of boat bottoms.

  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces requiring constant cleaning.

Quagga mussel infestation can potentially lead to the closure of boating in affected waterways. They also wreak havoc with the environment, disrupting the natural food chain and releasing toxins that affect other species. Spread of the quagga could result in millions of dollars in damage to water transport facilities.

Various watercraft are the primary transporters of quagga mussels. All boaters and anyone who accesses freshwater aquatic environments should take the following steps to inhibit the spread of the quagga mussel:

  • Inspect all exposed surfaces - small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch.

  • Wash the hull of each watercraft thoroughly; preferably with high pressure/hot water.

  • Remove all plants and animal material.

  • Drain all water and dry all areas.

  • Drain and dry the lower outboard unit.

  • Clean and dry all live-wells.

  • Empty and dry any buckets.

  • Dispose of all bait in the trash.

  • Wait five days and keep watercraft dry between launches into different fresh waters.

It is important for boaters to follow these steps and cooperate with vessel inspections that are being conducted at a number of Department of Food and Agriculture border inspection stations and around the state.

These invasive freshwater mollusks were first detected in California in January, in Lake Havasu on the Colorado River.

In subsequent months, they were found in two Southern California water systems using Colorado River water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and the San Diego County Water Authority.

MWD documented the mussels in March and again in July in its 242-mile Colorado River aqueduct, and also at Lake Mathews near Riverside and at Lake Skinner in Winchester, east of Temecula. On Aug. 21, the mussels were discovered in San Diego County, at San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside.

Thus far, the mussels have not been found in California's State Water Project (SWP), which draws its water from Northern California watersheds. Environmental scientists are monitoring the system, one of the largest water and power systems in the United States. The main risk of mussel introduction in the SWP is from trailered boats.

A multi-agency taskforce that includes the Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Boating and Waterways, the Department of Water Resources and California State Parks has launched an outreach campaign to alert boaters and the public to the quagga mussel threat.

This effort is also being coordinated with MWD and the San Diego County Water Authority.

For information on the Quagga mussel response, visit the DFG Web site at

A public toll-free number, 1-866-440-9530, has been established for boaters and anyone involved with activities on lakes and rivers seeking information on the invasive and destructive quagga mussels. The toll-free number is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


KELSEYVILLE – The name of a Kelseyville man who died after a Friday head-on collision has been released.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia reported that 48-year-old Robert Faulknor was the victim of the collision, which Lake County News first reported over the weekend.

Faulknor was driving westbound on Point Lakeview Road near Lower Lake Friday at about 7:30 p.m. when 18-year-old William Jeffrey Shephard of Kelseyville crossed the double-yellow lines in his Jeep, hitting Faulknor in his Toyota head on.

The CHP reported that Faulknor had veered to the right in an attempt to avoid the collision. He died at the scene, despite having worn his seat belt.

Shephard, who also wore a seat belt, sustained major injuries including a chest contusion and facial injuries. He was transported by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Garcia said Shephard remains in the hospital due to the severity of his injuries.

As Lake County News previously reported, CHP determined Shephard was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The crash was the Labor Day weekend's only fatality, according to Garcia.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County authorities have arrested two men for a series of burglaries around Mendocino and Lake counties.

A report from Captain Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office explained that deputies arrested Ben Brooks, 25, of Redwood Valley and Brent Harding, 32, of Ukiah on burglary charges for incidents that occurred between April and June.

Beginning in April, Smallcomb reported that a series of commercial burglaries began taking place in Mendocino County. Businesses hit included the Hopland Subway and the Superette, Lemons Market in Philo, storage sheds in Ukiah and the Buckhorn Bar in Covelo.

In Lake County, the Fast and Easy Market in Upper Lake also was burglarized, Smallcomb reported.

Items taken from the stories included cash, safes, an ATM machine, liquor and cigarettes, according to Smallcomb's report.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies, led by Deputy Derek Hendry, investigated all of the burglaries, said Smallcomb.

Those investigations, Smallcomb reported, led to Hendry's arrests of Brooks and Harding on Aug. 31.

Brooks already was in custody on unrelated charges and booked for burglary, said Smallcomb.

Harding, Smallcomb added, was booked into the Mendocino County Jail for the burglaries along with a

probation violation. Because of the probation violation, Harding remains in jail on a no-bail hold.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTHSHORE – Issues with Internet cable lines on Saturday shut down Internet access for hundreds of customers along the Northshore.

A Mediacom representative said the Internet outage was reported just after 8 a.m. Saturday and affected about 800 customers.

The outage, according to Mediacom, was caused by two damaged nodes, which are pieces of equipment connecting fiberoptic cable to local cable networks. The company was suffering both hardware and software issues related to the issues with the nodes.

By 2 a.m. Sunday Internet service had not yet been restored. However, Mediacom said crews were working throughout the night until the problem was fixed.

By 7 a.m. services had been restored.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Work continues on the 270-acre Yolla Bolly Complex located 20 air miles northeast of Covelo.

There are three remaining uncontrolled fires in the complex: Butte (40 acres), Sugarloaf (95 acres) and Lazy (170 acres), according to a report from forest spokesperson Punky Moore.

Moore said the Lazy Fire is established in an area of the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on the Shasta Trinity National Forest with limited access, rugged terrain and extremely steep ridges that are contributing to constant rolling material and uphill runs. Fire activity has increased significantly on the east, south and west flanks.

About 100 personnel are working on the Lazy Fire with two helicopters dropping water on hot spots, delivering supplies and transporting crews, Moore said. Due to the complex nature involved in containing this fire, it has been elevated to a Type 2 incident and Kent Swartzlander’s NorCal Type 2 Incident Management will assume command of this incident Monday evening.

Meanwhile, firefighters continue the process of controlling the other fires in the complex, according to Moore. Some of the most difficult work remains: reinforcing existing line, suppressing smoldering debris and patrolling burned areas to ensure no fire is lingering that may flare up again. More than 100 personnel are working to contain the Yolla Bolly Complex.

Deer rifle season begins in B-Zone in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on Sept. 15, Moore reported. Hunters are encouraged to call ahead to one of our offices to check on current conditions in case areas are still affected by fire activity. A temporary flight restriction is in place for a 10-mile radius around the fire area.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The latest forest fire news from Mendocino National Forest officials is that firefighters are getting a hold on a series of fires northeast of Covelo.

Forest spokesperson Punky Moore reported Sunday that after days of battling the many fires in the main Yolla Bolly Complex, firefighters have contained all but one, the Lazy Fire.

The complex is located 20 air miles northeast of Covelo. It has grown to 190 acres and is 50 percent contained, Moore reported.

Over the weekend, the 40-acre Lazy Fire picked up momentum and posed significant problems for firefighters because of rolling burning debris and very steep terrain, according to Moore's report. Air tankers and additional firefighters were ordered to help prevent this fire from getting established in areas that are extremely difficult to manage. Fire activity has been decreasing as evening approaches.

It was determined Saturday that the Lazy Fire is located on the Shasta Trinity National Forest and not the Mendocino National Forest as initially reported, Moore noted. Both forests decided to continue to manage this fire within the Yolla Bolly Complex.

The contained fires (Butte, Hammerhorn, French, Fern, Stockton, Sugarloaf, Rock, Long and Spring) range in size from one acre to 95 acres, according to Moore. Even though these fires are contained, some of the most difficult work remains: reinforcing existing line, suppressing smoldering debris and patrolling burned areas to ensure no fire is lingering that may flare up again.

More than 250 personnel are working to contain the Yolla Bolly Complex, Moore said. In addition, three helicopters are assisting firefighters dropping water on areas of fire that have potential to grow and are difficult to reach, transporting personnel and delivering supplies.

Deer rifle season begins in B-Zone in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on Sept. 15, Moore reported. Hunters are encouraged to call ahead to one of our offices to check on current conditions in case areas are still affected by fire activity. A temporary flight restriction is in place for a 10-mile radius around the fire area.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Strong gusty winds Friday challenged firefighters and firelines that have been built on the Mendocino National Forest's  , according to a Saturday report from Forest Service officials.

The complex is located about 20 air miles northeast of Covelo in the Yolla Bolly Middle-Eel Wilderness. Of the 10 fires that make up the complex, six are contained and firefighters continue to work on reaching containment on the others.

Another new fire was confirmed Friday morning within the complex, according to the report from Punky Moore, the forest spokesperson.

More accurate mapping by firefighters on the ground has reduced the The Yolla Bolly Complex to 85 acres with 30 percent containment.

The largest fire in the complex, Moore reported, is the Sugarloaf Fire near Sugarloaf Mountain in the south central part of the wilderness. It is about 45 acres and has 100 personnel assigned.

Moore reported that firefighting efforts include reinforcing existing line, building line around uncontained fires, suppressing smoldering debris and patrolling areas to ensure no fire is lingering that may flare up again. Helicopters will assist firefighters by dropping water on areas of fire that have potential to grow and are difficult to reach.

The first priority on the Yolla Bolly Complex, according to Moore, is providing firefighter and public safety.

As such, a temporary flight restriction is in place for a 10 mile radius around the fire area. Visitors to the forest need be aware of fire activity that may influence their vacation and hunting plans.

However, Moore noted that there are no closures in place for the complex. Many areas of the forest are not affected by fire suppression activities; however, it is recommended that visitors planning a trip to the forest call one of our offices for current information before venturing out.

More than 150 personnel and three helicopters are committed to the Yolla Bolly incident, Moore reported. Additional resources have been ordered.

Officials are keeping their eyes out for new fires resulting from lightning strikes several days ago, said Moore; she added it's isn't unusual to find such fires days later.


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