Good Samaritans pulled an apparently suicidal wrong-way driver from her burning car, according to a witness who saw the northern California crash Sunday that killed a young Medford father.
Three men rushed to the center median to pull Grace Elizabeth Ward from her burning 2009 Chevrolet Impala near Redding, according to Leah Tuggle of Redding, who said she saw the aftermath of the crash and called 911.
"They risked their lives for her," Tuggle said of the men, adding that they "didn't know it was (Ward) that caused it."
Tuggle saw Ward's car land in the center median, though she didn't see her car smash into the maroon Honda Accord that Ryan John Folsom of Medford had been driving. The impact sent Folsom's sedan down an embankment, but flames drew bystanders' attention to Ward's vehicle.
Seeing Ward's car flip before her eyes and turn 360 degrees was "the worst thing I ever saw," Tuggle said, adding that her young son was in the car.
Folsom was unable to avoid colliding with Ward — who, according to the California Highway Patrol, was driving northbound in the southbound lanes near Anderson, California. In a release issued Wednesday night, CHP said that "attempted suicide may have been a factor.
"This is a pretty significant investigation," CHP Sgt. Greg Ross said. "We won't be releasing any information outside of news releases."
Ward has yet to be charged with a crime, jail and court records show, and she remains at Mercy Medical Center in Redding being treated for injuries that include a broken leg.
The CHP release sought local witness statements and dash camera footage to better piece together what happened.
"The California Highway Patrol is working around the clock to gather the facts of this case and ensure appropriate justice is served," the release states.
The CHP provided revised details about the fatal crash from earlier reports. Folsom had been driving on southbound Interstate 5 in the left lane when Ward's vehicle collided with his. Folsom succumbed to his injuries at Mercy Medical Center, according to the release. (A previous story incorrectly said Folsom was in the right lane and that he died at the scene.)
The crash caused an outpouring of support for the family of Folsom, a former star North Medford High School and Brigham Young University athlete who was close to becoming a doctor, and whose wife is due with their third child.
As of Thursday evening, a memorial fund to cover medical school loans and other Folsom family expenses had reached $256,000, surpassing a $200,000 "stretch goal" after an original amount of $150,000 was set. Folsom's longtime friend Ian Cropper, who organized the campaign, expressed deep gratitude.
"As I've been watching the comments stream in, I've realized that because of his character and his lifetime of kindheartedness, leadership, respectfulness, humility, and hard work, Ryan is, in a very real way providing for his wife and family," Cropper posted Thursday evening.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-44717 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.