Boulders placed where SUV went into Lucky Peak, 4 died
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crew on Thursday moved large rocks from along Arrowrock Road to the site where two vehicles have plunged into Lucky Peak Reservoir since 2010.
On Friday morning, workers were finishing up placing the rocks along the edge of the gravel pullout on the northeast side of High Bridge, at the intersection of Spring Shores/Arrowrock Road and Idaho 21.
“The hillsides constantly shed and crumble rock,” said Keith Hyde, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ park manager for Lucky Peak. “We were able to source a few larger rocks along Arrowrock. We just picked them up and trailered some over to the site.”
Four people perished in a tragic and mysterious crash into the reservoir on June 2. Killed were Noel Bankhead, 40, and her three children: Gwyneth Voermans, 8, Logan Voermans, 11, and Anika Voermans, 13. They all drowned; the children also suffered blunt force trauma.
Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens said an autopsy revealed no evidence that Bankhead suffered a medical emergency before the crash.
A memorial service for all four family members is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel Boise, 123 S. Auto Drive. Services are under the direction of Bowman Funeral Parlor.
The cause of the crash has not been determined, and Owens has not ruled on the “manner” of deaths in this case, such as whether it was an accident or intentional.
There were no skid marks or other signs of braking in the June 2 crash. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is sending the Land Rover’s electronic data collection device — akin to an airplane’s “black box” — to be studied for clues on what occurred in the vehicle before it went off the cliff, according to sheriff’s spokesman Patrick Orr.
“We’ll have the black box in the Land Rover analyzed to look for things like braking, speed and acceleration,” Orr said.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, several people who live and work near Lucky Peak told the Statesman they believed that numerous people had gone off the cliff into the reservoir in the same spot. All wondered why barriers of some sort hadn’t been placed there.
The Idaho Transportation Department collects data on vehicle crashes around the state, but it counts only crashes that were determined to be accidental.
“Intentional is not a traffic crash. It is a criminal act,” an data analyst told the Statesman recently. “By law, it is not part of our data.”
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office researched crashes near High Bridge and found that since 2005 there was one other crash in the same spot as the June 2 crash, the northeast side of the bridge.
That occurred Sept. 9, 2010. Investigators said Andrew Steele, 31, drove his truck into the reservoir. Evidence gathered at the scene indicated that the truck accelerated over the cliff. Steele’s death was ruled a suicide.
There was also a fatal crash in the reservoir on Feb. 19, 2009, but that was on the northwest side of the bridge, the other side of Idaho 21 from the June 2 crash.
Kathleen Cronin was driving south on Idaho 21 when for unknown reasons her car veered off the right side of the road, hit a traffic sign, drove up an embankment and off the cliff.
There was no evidence of acceleration or braking at the scene, investigators said. Then-Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said Cronin had a history of migraines, but there was no way to determine whether that was a factor in the crash. The manner of her death was ruled accidental.
When ITD rehabbed High Bridge in 2011, the department added some jersey barriers along Idaho 21 on the northeast side of the bridge. The gravel pullout where the two fatal crashes occurred is just to the east of those barriers.
Hyde, the park manager for the Corps of Engineers, said there was no requirement or compelling need to put the boulders along the cliff.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.
He said when they have the backhoe on Arrowrock in the future, they may snag other large rocks to add to the arrangement.
Corps of Engineers staff were involved in the June 2 rescue/recovery effort, a very difficult scene for both professionals and passers-by to witness.
“We sure hope it doesn’t happen again,” Hyde said.