Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A teen driver and his female passenger died when the car they were in went off Highway 199 and into the Smith River Thursday morning.

Sheriff’s Commander Bill Steven said the two were identified as Casey Wagoner, 17, and Madrone Jackson, 19, both of O’Brien, Oregon. Their next of kin have been notified.

According to CHP reports, a call came in at 11:28 a.m., reporting that a truck had gone into the river at mile marker 19.6, east of Gasquet. The area is known to locals because of a clearing and a tall waterfall that flows in winter, and as the area where two lanes become four.

Personnel from CHP, Del Norte Sheriff’s Office, Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Forest Service, Crescent City Fire and Rescue and Search and Rescue responded.

Arriving personnel found the vehicle was not a truck, but a Volkswagen Jetta with Oregon plates, completely submerged in the river.

CHP investigators determined the Jetta was heading southbound into the four lane, the driver lost control, went off the road, hit a tree and fell into the river.

Gasquet Fire Chief Nick Karanopoulos said the water was a couple feet over the roof of the submerged car and was flowing around it.

Personnel from Smith River Dive Team and Del Norte Search and Rescue went into the river to recover the occupants, according to Karanopoulos.

CHP investigators have not determined what caused Wagoner to lose control and crash. Investigators have not determined if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash and a coroner’s investigation is pending.