Cops: Alcohol factor in crash killing off-duty Calif. hotshot

The driver, another Hotshot, thought he hit an animal lying in the road and drove away

The Idaho Statesman

CAMPTONVILLE, Calif. — A Forest Service firefighter with Treasure Valley roots was killed Saturday when he was struck by a car driven by a fellow crew member.

California Highway Patrol said Michael Patrick Kelly II, 32, was lying on the road when he was hit early Saturday three miles from Camptonville, Calif.

Kelly worked as squad boss and full-time forest firefighter with the Tahoe Hotshots Crew, stationed out of Camptonville. Raised in Meridian, he graduated from Eagle High School in 1999.

A driver told police that he spotted Kelly lying on the road, and flashed his highbeams to warn an approaching car of the pedestrian.

But the oncoming car — driven by 26-year-old Andrew Gruenberg — a Hotshot on Kelly’s crew, did not stop. The small car containing Gruenberg and his six passengers, all members of the Tahoe Hotshots Crew, ran over Kelly, who died at the scene from head and torso injuries.

Gruenberg thought he had hit an animal, investigators said, and continued on two miles to his destination. A passenger in his car called 911 to report a hazard in the roadway. After reaching their destination, two of the Hotshots got into another car and returned to the scene of the collision to see what the car had hit.

The Hotshots were greeted by the sight of emergency crews, who confirmed that Kelly died from being run over.

California Highway Patrol investigators say that alcohol was a factor in the crash, but no arrests have yet been made. The collision remains under investigation, and toxicology results are pending.

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