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Three double‑fatal crashes in Sonoma County in one week

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Six people have died in southwest Sonoma County in three separate vehicle collisions in the span of a week.

The crashes began Oct. 1, with the death of two men in a head-on crash on Valley Ford Road just northwest of Petaluma. Carl Levine, 66, of Santa Rosa, and James Wheelock, 57, of Petaluma, were killed after their pickup truck flipped and landed on its side when another driver pulled into their path, according to the CHP.

The following day at 4:50 p.m., two people crashed into a eucalyptus tree off D Street southwest of Petaluma. Judith Shane, 79, of Vallejo, lost control of her 2005 Volvo while north on the rural road and rolled down an embankment before the vehicle hit a tree, CHP said Monday afternoon.

She and her passenger, Samuel Singer, 84, of Tucson, Arizona, were rushed by ambulances to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where she died this past Wednesday, the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office said. Singer died the following day.

The third fatal crash occurred about 10:25 a.m. Sunday on Bodega Avenue just west of Petaluma.

Tom Mello, 64, and Patricia Harris, 61, didn’t live far apart in the rolling countryside west of town. Mello was headed to downtown to grab a loaf of bread from one of his favorite bakeries when he and Harris crashed, family members said.

Harris was headed home on the major rural route when her van moved into the path of Mello’s pickup, according to CHP. Neither driver had time to brake, and both died in the head‑on collision, CHP Sgt. Al Capurro said.

Mello was a husband, father of two and 22‑year employee of Amy’s Kitchen, where he was manager of organic agriculture. A company spokeswoman said in an email Monday Mello’s co‑workers and friends were devastated.

Harris was traveling with two dogs, kept in separate crates in the back of her van. They appeared to be show dogs, with competition ribbons hanging from their crates, said Wilmar Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Mickelson, who responded to the crash.

A border collie survived and soon was on a leash, walking with a Sonoma County Animal Services officer who reunited the dog with its family. An Australian shepherd didn’t survive.

The crash closed Bodega Avenue for hours. CHP said it’s investigating what caused Harris to cross the double-yellow lines into the eastbound lane.

No one witnessed the crash, but people saw the vehicles prior and told officers neither was speeding or driving erratically, Capurro said.

Six traffic deaths in a week in Sonoma County is a rare, unfortunate situation, he said.

“I haven’t seen something like this in such a short time,” said Capurro, senior sergeant at CHP’s Sonoma County office. “It’s been a terrible week.”

All three collisions remain under investigation, but the causes appear to be different.

“It’s not like we’re having one issue causing all of these crashes,” Capurro said, such as impaired drivers or speeding.

However, one common factor is that all three crashes happened on country roadways without dividers.

“Historically those are the roads that give us the most problems,” Capurro said.

Last November, four people died in crashes within two weeks. Those three crashes all involved suspected DUI drivers.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rossmannreport.