At approximately 5:45 p.m. on November 14, Kern County Deputy Sheriff William Hudnall (43) was killed when his patrol car was hit head-on by a suspected drunken driver on Highway 178. The crash sent Deputy Hudnall’s car over a steep, rocky embankment east of the Lower Richbar Campground and into the canyon.
An off-duty firefighter was the first to discover the accident and call it in, according to Kern County Fire Department Capt. Dennis Monahan. When rescue workers arrived, they found a BMW 328i still on the roadway and the patrol car, a 2003 Ford Explorer, about 100 feet down, resting on its right side on a rock pile near the river. The firefighter who reported the accident was already down in the canyon trying to resuscitate one of the victims.
The driver of the BMW, Daniel Willsey, an attorney from Montrose, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Kirk Arnold. An arrestee whom Deputy Hudnall was transporting was injured and reported in stable condition. Willsey suffered serious injuries. Deputy Hudnall was taken to Kern County Medical Center with major head trauma, where he was pronounced dead.
Deputy William Hudnall is survived by his wife, Carrie; three sons Joshua (21), Creighton (5), and Chancellor (2) and a daughter, Jennifer (19).