Driver error may have caused accident that killed runners, coach

The fiery car accident on U.S. 395 that resulted in the deaths of two teenage cross country runners and a cheerleading coach from Southern California on Aug. 9 was at least partly due to driver error, according to a California Highway Patrol report.

Seventeen-year-old Natalie Nield was driving a Ford SUV headed south a few miles south of Bishop at the time of the accident. The vehicle was registered to Gabrielle Nield.

For an unknown reason, Nield veered from her lane, making an “unsafe turning movement” according to Bishop CHP Officer Dennis Cleland. The SUV then hit the drainage ditch on the west side of the highway and the vehicle spun out of control. The vehicle rolled several times into the northbound lanes, burst into flames (according to several witnesses that spoke to the Mammoth Times). It landed in front of an oncoming northbound van driven by 36-year-old Wendy Rice, a cheerleading coach for a San Diego school.

Nield, Rice and another teenager in the SUV, Amanda Post, 18, died at the scene, and several other students and adults were seriously injured and burned, including John Adams, a cross country trainer formerly of Mammoth Lakes.

Two male teenagers and Adams, were either pulled from the burning SUV by witnesses or were able to move away from the burning vehicle a short distance. All remain in serious or critical condition.

The reason Nield veered from her lane and the rate of speed of the SUV have not been determined and will be released by a special investigative arm of the CHP, the San Bernadino-based Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), according to Cleland.

The MAIT report was expected to have been released “two weeks ago,” Cleland said.