A man was killed and three others were in critical condition Saturday after a head-on collision where Highway 395 climbs Jake's Hill about five miles south of Gardnerville.
A brown Mercury Sable was traveling north when it appears to have passed into the southbound lane and into the path of a white Hyundai Sonata, according to Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Alessandra.
"But we're in the investigative phase so it's not confirmed," he said.
Both cars stopped immediately upon impact facing northeast. The accident occurred about 9:30 a.m.
The driver of the Hyundai was transported by a CALSTAR air ambulance to Carson-Tahoe Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Mercury was transported by a Care Flight helicopter to Washoe Medical Center with serious injuries. A female passenger from each car was taken by Care Flight to Washoe Medical where they remain in critical condition.
Those involved in the accident have been identified, but their names are being withheld pending notification of their families.
Two males and one female, between the ages of 50 and 60, were trapped in the vehicles after the crash, according to East Fork Fire and Paramedic District Chief Tod Carlini. Firefighters responding to the scene used extraction tools to free the injured.
"It was a difficult extraction due to the fact that she was trapped under the dash," said East Fork Capt. Robert Lekumberry of the passenger in the Hyundai. "We literally had to cut the top off and roll the dash."
The fourth person involved in the crash, a male aged 38, was ejected. Lekumberry described the injuries as multi-system trauma.
In the back seat of the Hyundai, shattered glass spilled into an open tub of Red Vines Licorice. Cans of Diet Coke from the Mercury littered the highway.
The Nevada Highway Patrol, Douglas County Sheriff's Department and East Fork Fire and Paramedic District responded to the scene. East Fork brought 25 personnel, two engines, one heavy rescue truck with extraction equipment and two command units.
Care Flight helicopters responded from Washoe Medical Center and Carson Valley Medical Center as well as the CALSTAR helicopter from Truckee.
Traffic was backed up in both directions for several miles. It started moving again after an hour and a half, at about 11 a.m. One person waiting in southbound traffic let their horse out to stretch on the highway.
Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash, according to the NHP's "reconstructionist" or accident investigator, Trooper Mike Teeuwen.
"Right now alcohol is not suspected," he said. "I just got confirmation."
All occupants were wearing seat belts.