Man dies at wheel, causes auto accident |

Man dies at wheel, causes auto accident

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service
Shannon Litz/Appeal News Service A man who apparently died at the wheel caused an accident on Highway 395 just north of the intersection with Highway 88 on Tuesday. Two women were also injured.

MINDEN – Two women were injured in a head-on collision Tuesday here believed to have been caused when the driver of one of the vehicles died at the wheel.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta, 47, was driving south on Highway 395 near the intersection with Highway 88 shortly before 1 p.m. when a blue van crossed the center divider and headed toward his vehicle.

“The blue van was headed north when it jumped the center divider,” Mezzetta said. “I swerved to get out of the way and it clipped the left rear side of my car and shoved me out of the way.”

The van continued to travel in the southbound lane and hit a white 2002 Suzuki sports utility vehicle head-on.

Douglas Deputy Bryan Sanchez said emergency personnel performed CPR on the driver of the blue van, 75-year-old Marvin Kirk, of Minden, but he was dead.

“One witness said he appeared to be unconscious as he crossed over the center divider,” Sanchez said.

The driver of the SUV, 37-year-old Kristen Gingrich, of Gardnerville, was taken by ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital where she was treated and released, according to a press release from NHP Sgt. John Schilling. The female passenger in the 1994 Mercury Villager van, 82-year-old Pauline Kirk, of Minden, was transported to Reno by helicopter and was in serious condition at Renown Medical Center.

Mezzetta said he struck his head on the car door, but otherwise was uninjured. He used his car radio to report the accident.

The accident, just north of the junction of the two highways, tied up traffic for hours just prior to dismissal at Douglas High School. Southbound vehicles were rerouted through the Westwood subdivision. Travel lanes reopened at 5:10 p.m.

Chris Oakden, a mechanic for the sheriff’s department, was behind Mezzetta in the traffic lane that had slowed for a red light.

“I saw this blue thing coming at me, and I hit the brakes,” Oakden said. “I just got lucky. I’m still kind of nervous.”