Rialto Councilman O’Connell Survives Car Plunge Down I-15 Embankment

(December 12)  One of San Bernardino County’s leading citizens narrowly averted death when he lost control of his vehicle while driving northbound on the 15 Freeway south of Devore early Wednesday morning.
Rialto Councilman Shawn O’Connell sustained substantial injuries that left him unconscious for nearly 12 hours after he plunged down a 30-foot embankment on the east side of the freeway south of the Glen Helen Parkway exit at around 2:15 a.m. as he was en route to the home of a friend in the High Desert who was going to make repairs to O’Connell’s wheelchair.
The California Highway Patrol has yet to establish the precise cause of the accident. There have been recurrent reports that O’Connell, who has only limited use of his legs, was experiencing intense back pain and spasms, which may have precipitated the crash. Some seven hours previously, O’Connell had left the Tuesday evening city council meeting before it concluded because he was experiencing intense back spasms.
O’Connell sustained significant internal injuries, including  bruised kidneys and lungs, a fractured vertebra and spinal contusions. His car lodged against overgrown chaparral and brush against a fence at the bottom of the embankment. The former police sergeant with the Rialto Police Department remained and unconscious and azed for well over ten hours.
Meanwhile, the person he was journeying to visit when the mishap occurred, described as O’Connell’s best friend, became alarmed when O’Connell did not arrive. He attempted to phone O’Connell and when he could not reach him on his cell phone, contacted the Rialto Police Department to inform them he believed something may have befallen the councilman.
Rialto instituted a search for O’Connell, including making a check of his home. That search expanded to include a drive along the likely route O’Connell would have taken up the 15 Freeway from Rialto to the High Desert, and when that proved unfruitful, the Highway Patrol was contacted and a request was made to the sheriff’s department to do a helicopter flyover of the 15 Freeway as well.
Sometime around 1 p.m. O’Connell regained consciousness and was able to use his cell phone to summon assistance. While rescurers utilitzed his cell phone transmissions to triangulate on his location, O’Connell  was able to start his vehicle and move it to a spot where he was visible to responding units.
The councilman was transported to the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where he remained at press time within the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Leave a Reply