CA Parks and Recreation Service Ranger Patricia Scully, 25, was killed by a drunk driver on May 6, 1976. She became the second woman law enforcement officer to be killed in CA (Madera County). Deputy Lucille Helm was the first in 1959.
Ranger Scully was on patrol at San Mateo Coast State Beaches, Half Moon Bay, at 4:20 p.m. on Thurs., May 6, when a drunk driver struck her vehicle head-on. Her northbound pickup truck was “knocked over an embankment on the Coast Highway” just north of LaHonda Road by a southbound car which “crossed onto the wrong side of the highway.” The driver, Manuel Santos Fernandez, Jr., 19, of Redwood City was driving at a “high rate of speed” before he “went out of control,” cross the median, “skidded 119 feet, flipped over and slammed into” Scully’s pickup.
The first marks made on Ranger Scully’s vehicle by the other vehicle were 30-36 inches above the ground indicating that Fernandez’ vehicle was “airborne” when it “literally went through the cab of Ranger Scully’s truck.”
One witness to the accident was Park Ranger William Walling who was in another vehicle 20 yards in front of Scully. Walling saw Fernandez’ vehicle cross the median just ahead of him (narrowly missing him) at approximately 65 mph. The vehicle then went onto the shoulder before careening back into the Walling/Scully lane. The vehicle then “flipped over” and went airborne as it struck Scully’s vehicle, “knocking it off the highway and down an embankment.”
Ranger Walling was the first person to reach Scully’s vehicle and, with the help of firemen from the CA Division of Forestry station at Pescadora, carried the mortally wounded Scully “back up the hill.” Ranger Scully was rushed to San Mateo County’s Chop Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead upon arrival. The cause of death was later determined to be from a skull fracture and multiple injuries.
Fernandez, the driver of the car that struck Scully, and his two Redwood City passengers, both 18, were all taken to Sequoia Hospital where Fernandez was released after treatment. His passengers were admitted and reported to be in “stable” condition.
Fernandez declined to discuss the fatal crash when asked to submit to questioning. He was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. A trial was held in Redwood City where Fernandez’ defense attorney claimed that the Corvair was “defective” and thus that the auto he was driving, not his client, was responsible for the accident. The defense brought in the CHP officer who testified in a Ralph Nader case claiming that the Corvair was, as Nader’s book title implied, Unsafe at Any Speed.
The jury rejected the defense tactic and Fernandez was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to one year in the county jail. His driver’s license was suspended for three years. Though Fernandez was not convicted of DUI, he did testify that he and his two passengers “had been drinking some beers” before the accident. Fernandez served 10 months on his one-year jail sentence before being released.
The Scully family filed a civil suit against Fernandez for wrongful death and won a jury verdict that they were never able to collect. Scully was born April 8, 1951, in Sacramento to Patrick and Eileen Scully. She grew up on a poultry ranch owned by the Scully family in Rio Linda, CA (near Sacramento). Her father was born in Ireland but had lived in Rio Linda since 1946.
She graduated from Rio Linda High School in June of 1969. She attended American River Jr. College for two years (where she played on the field hockey team with her sister Mary), and then transferred to California State University, Sacramento, where she received her B.A. in social science and anthropology (archaeology) in January 1974. She was an excellent student and received scholarships and awards of merit for her scholastic achievements. At the time of her death, Scully was working on a M.S. degree in anthropology and environmental resources at California State, Sacramento. She had completed all coursework and lacked only a thesis.
Scully joined the California Parks and Recreation Service (later the CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation) in 1974. In late 1974 she graduated from the Parks and Recreation Academy (i.e., the Mott Training Center in Asilomar) after six weeks of training. She was one of two women among the 38 cadets in academy class #18. Her first assignment after graduation was to the Big Basin State Park where she received additional (interpretative) training.
Scully’s last assignment of her 1 ½ year career was as a State Park Ranger 1 at the Pescadero State Park in Half Moon Bay on the San Mateo Coast. In her spare time, she worked on a historical survey of Ana Nueva State Beach. Colleagues stated that she was dedicated to the preservation of the environment and the education of the park visitor. She was a 9-year veteran of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation at the time of her death.
Besides her parents Scully, 25, was survived by four sisters, Kathleen Pooler, West Sacramento; Mary and Teresa Scully, Rio Linda; and Margaret Scully, Berkeley; one brother, Thomas Scully, Santa Cruz; and her fiancée, Park Ranger Leslie Cowie of Stockton.
In 1976 the friends and family of Ranger Scully established a perpetual Memorial Fund with the National Audubon Society. Each year the Fund sends people working in an environmentally related field to Audubon Workshop training sessions.