Vast, lonely, unforgiving |

Vast, lonely, unforgiving

Steve Ranson
U.S. Highway 50 near mile marker 53.


A Go Fund Me page has been established for the four Hounsell children who were in the fatal rollover in Fallon that killed three adults. The page is located at

It’s a long stretch of highway that crosses central Nevada. Those who have driven this two-lane highway have called it vast, lonely and sometimes unforgiving.

At about 5 p.m. on Saturday, a Minden family and a friend from Illinois were on their way home to Douglas County, two more hours on U.S. Highway 50. They were heading west toward the 4,464-foot Sand Springs Pass, three miles east of Sand Mountain near milemarker 53. For some unknown reason, though, they never made it across the valley floor.

One of the worst U.S. Highway 50 accidents in Churchill County in more than a decade is having an effect on three communities — Minden, South Tahoe and Fallon as three people were killed and four injured in a single-vehicle rollover near the Rawhide Mine turnoff. This was the second rollover in less than a week in Churchill County. In an Oct. 13 accident near Fallon, four high-school students were injured, two seriously.

The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office initially released information on the accident and those killed. The deceased are Mark Hounsell, 42, and his wife, Jeanne Hounsell, 34, of Minden, and Laura Fisher, 33, of Washington, Illinois. The Record Courier newspaper in Gardnerville said Jeanne Hounsell was a photographer in the Carson Valley.

The Hounsell’s four children — Tyler, 14, Lance, 11, Emma, 6, and Corbin, 4 — were hospitalized as a result of the accident. The CCSO said two children were taken by Care Flight to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, while Banner Churchill paramedics took the other two children to Renown via ground ambulance.

In a statement released Monday by the Nevada Highway Patrol, a preliminary investigation revealed the Hounsells were traveling westbound on the highway when for some unknown reason the driver, Mark Hounsell, allowed the 2004 Chevrolet Suburban to drift off the road and then attempted to overcorrect.

According to the initial investigation, the vehicle overturned several times. The NHP stated it doesn’t suspect impairment as a cause of the crash. The accident closed the eastbound lane of U.S. Highway 50, but it was later re-opened.

The CCSO said Mark Hounsell was a police officer for the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., police department and had been with the agency since 2007. Prior to that, he began working for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 1998.

The Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department’s crash truck responded to extract some of the occupants. Sheriff Ben Trotter said Renown notified the CCSO Sunday and reported two children remained at the hospital while two others were dismissed.

Law enforcement agencies said it was the worst traffic accident on the highway in more than a decade when six people were killed near the Carroll Summit turnoff from U.S. Highway 50. A trooper said most of the fatalities on highways 50 and 95 usually involve one person.

Trotter expressed condolences on behalf of the local law enforcement community:

“I would definitely say we are thinking of the family and the law enforcement family during their time of loss,” Trotter said. “My heart really goes out to the children who have lost so much on what was likely a happy family outing. If there is any way I or the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office can help, we want to do so.”

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department released a statement on Sunday regarding the accident:

“It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we inform our South Lake Tahoe community and others of the passing of Officer Mark Hounsell and his wife Jeanne. Mark served the Citizens of South Lake Tahoe as a Police Officer since May 19, 2007.

“Mark, his wife, his wife’s friend, and Mark’s four children were returning from a family trip when they were involved in a single car rollover accident near Fallon, Nevada. In addition to Mark and his wife Jeanne, the adult family friend also died from injuries sustained in the crash.

“All the children had varying degrees of injury, but are expected to recover.

“This tragedy shocks the entire Police Department, Mark’s friends and all who knew this fine family. We will be making plans to properly honor and show our respects in the coming days. More details to include ways in which friends can be supportive will follow.”

The Hounsells attended Lifepoint Church, which issued a statement on Sunday regarding their loss.

“Today, our church family grieves the loss of two incredible people, Mark and Jeanne Hounsell,” it said. “They, along with a friend from out of town, were killed in an auto accident (Saturday) evening. Their four children survived, two of them are still being cared for at the hospital. For times like these there are no words but our hearts are aching as we realize the tremendous example, legacy, and impact that both Mark and Jeanne have had on our church and community. Please continue to pray for their children, extended family, and many friends in this time of deep loss.”

The Record Courier and Tahoe Daily Tribune contributed to this story.