PETALUMA (CBS SF) – The woman who was behind the wheel in Wednesday morning’s fatal crash into the Petaluma River that left her two young girls dead did not have a driver’s license, according to authorities.
26-year-old Alejandra Hernandez of Rohnert Park, was driving her white 2006 Chevrolet Impala northbound on Petaluma Boulevard North at Gossage Avenue at about 8 a.m.
For unknown reasons, the vehicle drifted onto the center dirt median. The car the suddenly swerved back to the right, crossed all lanes and ran off of the roadway.
CHP said the car hit several trees on its fall down the ridge before it flipped and plunged into the creek below.
The car immediately sank. A witness ran down to provide assistance and found Hernandez on top of the car. She told him there were children inside. The witness tried but was unable to get into the car.
Officers from the Petaluma Police Department and firefighters from Rancho Adobe arrived at the scene and attempted to rescue the girls. They reached the girls after 25 minutes, but were unable to save them.
The sisters were taken to Petaluma Valley Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
The Sonoma County coroner’s office later identified the two sisters as 9-year-old Delilah Gonzalez and 7-year-old Sayra Gonzalez of Rohnert Park.
The crash closed Petaluma Boulevard Boulevard North between Gossage Avenue and Skillman Lane until 2:10 p.m.
CHP officers said the mother was driving her two girls to school when the car accident happened. The car flipped over as it went into the creek.
The officers were visibly shaken up at the scene.
“Eight Petaluma officers along with fire went into the water and pull the girls out immediately started CPR, but at some point they were declared deceased,” CHP Officer Jonathan Sloat.
The vehicle was pulled from the water by CHP crews at about 12:30 p.m.
CHP were continuing to investigate the scene and examine the vehicle after recovering it. Officers reported that they found no car seats in the car after it was pulled from the water.
Two young Jenner girls, Kaitlyn Markus, 6, and Hailey Markus, 4, died last week when their mother’s Ford F-250 truck drove off wet southbound state Highway 1 and down an embankment into the Russian River.
In that Aug. 23 crash, their 32-year-old mother kicked out a window in the truck and tried to remove her daughters in the back seat but the truck sank quickly in 15-20 feet of water, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Many of the officers on the scene were the same ones who responded to a crash last week in Jenner.
“It’s tough. It’s tough to have these in short amount of time, knowing I was going to pay my respects out there and got diverted to this,” said Sloat. “It’s tough, but you have to take care of business to find out what happened and to see if there is anything that could have prevented this in the future.”
CHP said that Hernandez could be charged with a misdemeanor for driving without a license. Authorities are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the crash.