MENDOCINO Co., 1/12/23 — Heavy weather has claimed at least two lives in Mendocino County over the last week, as well as a third fatality involving a Ukiah woman who appears to have drowned in a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in Sonoma County. These deaths include a woman struck by a falling tree north of Fort Bragg and a PG&E contractor killed in a commercial vehicle rollover. The staff at The Voice extends our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.
Around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Tweet that 43-year-old Daphne Fontino’s remains were recovered from a submerged vehicle in the Forestville area, northwest of Santa Rosa. Sonoma sheriff’s deputies say they received a 911 call from the 6000 block of Trenton-Healdsburg Road just after 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Fontino told dispatchers there was water in the vehicle shortly before the call disconnected. Swift water rescue personnel responded to the area with assistance from a California Highway Patrol helicopter and searched until sunset, when it became too dangerous to continue working in the dark. They returned around sunrise, and around 7:45 a.m. they located a vehicle submerged in 8 to 10 feet of water roughly 100 yards off the roadway.
Susan Lee Stever, 68, was asleep in her home in the 27000 block of Highway 1, north of Fort Bragg, when a tree fell on her residence around 1:40 a.m. Monday, January 9. Stever’s family has set up a GoFundMe to assist with funeral expenses and structural repairs at the residence, which had raised $7,085 as of Thursday afternoon.
“As her family we are numb and know our lives will forever be an emptier space without her,” GoFundMe organizer Erin Leilani Paul wrote. “We need some help please to give momma the services she deserves, repair the home damaged by the tree that took her from us and funds to stay afloat while we figure out what to do without the woman who was a mom, a grandma, a confidant, a friend and the heart of our family.”
Edgar Castillo, a 37-year-old resident of Elk Grove who was working for PG&E contractor Mountain F Enterprises, died when a boom truck rolled over in the 41000 block of Mountain View Road in the Manchester area of unincorporated Mendocino County around 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. Castillo and his crew were doing tree work to restore utility service in the wake of this week’s storms.
“The crew was traveling towards Point Arena to perform vegetation management work in support of our electric restoration activities in that area as part of our storm response,” PG&E spokesman JD Guidi said in a statement to The Voice. “This safety incident underscores the hazardous conditions under which our coworkers, contract and mutual aid partners are working as part of our storm response.”
These storms are not over yet. Portions of Mendocino County are forecast to receive one to two inches of rain tonight at the highest elevations, with gusty winds from 40 to 50 mph on the coast. Another storm is expected this weekend.
“That system is the strongest one that will bring the strongest showers and strong winds for the northern portion of our area,” NWS meteorologist Zahaira Velez said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
For up-to-date information on incoming storms check out our most recent weather article for the Mendocino Voice, which is being updated in real time.