A tarpaulin covers a tree in the front yard of 1617 College St. in Woodland on Tuesday, a day after an out-of-control driver died after crashing into the tree. The hole in the fence at right was created by the battery of her SUV flying out of the car, through the fence and under the mud-splashed truck in the driveway next door. Lauren Keene/Enterprise photo

Crime, Fire + Courts

Police: Alcohol may have contributed to fatal crash

By From page A1 | February 15, 2012

WOODLAND — Harlan McAnelly was sitting on the front porch of his College Street home Monday afternoon when he first heard the sound he described as being “like a tornado.”

A dark-blue Range Rover had slammed into a tree in his neighbor’s front yard, sending broken glass and vehicle parts — including the car battery  —  onto McAnelly’s lawn and driveway.

“The garage saved me. I’m lucky I’m walking,” said McAnelly, whose garage juts out from the front of his home and served as a barrier to the flying debris. He said he peeked around the corner to discover the sport-utility vehicle wrapped around the thick tree trunk, suspended above the ground.

The driver died at the scene.

She was identified Tuesday as 20-year-old Vanessa Marie Del Toro of Woodland. An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the cause of her death.

Woodland police, who are investigating the fatal collision along with the California Highway Patrol, say alcohol may have played a role in the crash.

Sgt. Steven Guthrie said witnesses have reported seeing Del Toro drinking just prior to the wreck, “but we won’t know that until the coroner’s report comes back. That’s one of the things she can’t answer for herself.”

Investigators also are looking into whether a hit-and-run accident reported on Johnston Street earlier Monday afternoon had any connection to the incident.

Yolo Superior Court records indicate a warrant had been issued for Del Toro’s arrest Jan. 30 after she failed to appear in court last month on public-intoxication charges. She also was on probation for a 2010 second-degree burglary conviction.

Authorities said Del Toro was driving at a high rate of speed when Woodland Police Chief Dan Bellini spotted the Range Rover on southbound College near Pendegast Street shortly after 4 p.m. Bellini followed the speeding vehicle but lost sight of it when the driver ran a red light at Gibson Road.

The vehicle continued southbound on College Street, where tire marks visible at the scene Tuesday indicate it veered across the northbound lane and into the front yard of 1617 College.

Guthrie, a former traffic sergeant, said the several blocks of tire marks indicate the Range Rover was traveling “at least 70” in the 25-mph residential zone when it hit the tree.

McAnelly said the vehicle’s dislodged battery tore through a low wooden fence separating his driveway from the neighbor’s grass. A mailbox, he added, flew across his yard and dented the rain gutter of a home two doors down.

A resident of that house, who asked not to be identified, said the crash impact also spilled the contents of the Range Rover’s gas tank, causing a fire underneath the vehicle. He grabbed his neighbor’s hose and doused the flames.

He peered inside the wreckage, and what he saw did not look good.

“The passenger seat was literally pressed against her side,” the man said. “I tried talking to her for a couple of seconds,” but she did not respond.

Out on the street, people who apparently knew the driver hollered, “Get her out of there!,” but by then nothing could be done, the man said.

Court records show an address for Del Toro on Freeman Street in north Woodland. A woman sweeping the front porch at the home Tuesday said Del Toro had been staying there “off and on” for the past several years, but that her family lives in Sacramento.

The woman, who did not give her name, declined to comment further about Del Toro or Tuesday’s incident. She had tears in her eyes as she resumed sweeping.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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