Love, two deaths and now crash investigation surrounding driver "inattention"

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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“Inattention” is the word the California Highway Patrol is now using to describe a possible contributing factor in a March 17 crash on Foresthill Road that killed two people. And a CHP spokesman said that the two victims in the mid-day, head-on collision – longtime companions Marla McArron, 74, of Davis, and Richard Tanner, 78, of Foresthill – are not to blame. Instead, the driver of the other vehicle – and lone survivor of the crash – is under investigation for his actions leading up to the collision, Officer David Martinez said Monday. The driver – Billy Keller, 25, of Foresthill – was traveling westbound toward Auburn on the mountain road and McArron and Tanner were on their way to Tanner’s Foresthill cabin driving east. Hours after the crash, comments were posted on the Journal Website claiming Keller’s phone had been confiscated by the CHP and it contained information indicating he had been texting while driving before the accident. But family members of the victims contacted by the Auburn Journal declined to answer questions about those allegations, citing a request from CHP. And Martinez said he could say nothing further on the case because it was still being investigated. The Journal also attempted to reach Keller, who was flown by helicopter after the crash to Mercy San Juan Medical Center and has since been discharged. Debie Manson, a friend of Keller’s, said that the former Roseville resident and Roseville High School graduate still has “a long way to go” after suffering major injuries in the crash. “What Billy does or doesn’t remember is still all a bit hazy to say the least,” Manson said, in declining to discuss the crash herself. “I’m offering prayers prayers to all involved. Lives were changed forever.” McArron and Tanner were described by friends and family as much in love and beloved companions. Tanner, who taught at Davis schools before a 30-year career as a builder and general contractor in Yolo County, shared a love of the outdoors with McArron. McArron was an avid camper and backpacker, who rode her bicycle 14 times in the Davis Double Century, a 200-mile bike ride. Tanner also enjoyed staying in campgrounds or searching for lakes and streams to fish. “His last years, with Marla McArron, were some of his happiest, spent on their land in Foresthill, building a cabin for the two of them, and always engaged in a number of projects,” his funeral notice in the Davis Enterprise said.