Taylor Luis can’t stop thinking about what she saw and somehow managed to survive on her drive home from work Tuesday evening.
She was on Highway 121 in Napa County when rocks suddenly began tumbling down the fire-scarred and soaked hillside.
"It was small things coming down," she said. "Then you could see something larger and you could hear the sound get louder and louder, and the road was shaking."
Instinct kicked in, said Luis, as she recalled thinking, "I have to get out of here." She sped away, but Hernan Reyes-Aguires, who was in the car behind her, was unable to escape.
A rock that weighed several tons slammed into the driver's side of his vehicle, pushing it about 100 yards downhill, according to Capt. Steve Blower of the Napa County Sheriff's Department.
"I just remember watching the whole thing thinking, 'Please drive faster,'" Luis said. "I was hoping he could keep up with me because we were so close behind each other."
Emergency crews on Wednesday pulled out the victim's car that had plunged down a muddy hillside off Monticello Road.
A day later, Reyes-Aguires' girlfriend, Maria Casillas, visited the site of the crash.
"He was always from work to his house or with me or his family," she said. "He was a family person, a hard working guy."
Geologists from Caltrans have been called to the scene to examine the stability of the hillside above the road. Crews say the hillside likely became destabilized during the recent rainstorms. The Atlas Fire burned a lot of vegetation along Highway 121 and this week’s soaking didn’t help, officials say.
Luis said she’s driven that stretch of Highway 121 numerous times before but likely won’t be doing it again anytime soon.
"My heart breaks for that family," she said, crying. "I didn't know the person, but that's all I can think about."