Police and fire personnel responded to an apparent car crash on Canyon Road Tuesday with the first crews on the scene reporting a sedan on fire and a person lying in the burning grass nearby, apparently unconscious and suffering from major burns to most of his body.
The victim was subsequently identified as Philip Gardner, 54, of Martinez. Moraga police said Gardner suffered third degree burns and was flown by air ambulance to Valley Medical Center in San Jose, where he was listed in critical condition until his death. Friends and acquaintances who contacted this site said the victim had ties to Moraga and attended Campolindo High School.
Moraga Police Chief Jon King said Gardner was airlifted to Valley Medical instead of the closer John Muir because of the San Jose hospital’s burn unit.
The CALSTAR air ambulance was summoned shortly after smoke from the blaze was first sighted at 1:32 p.m. with two helicopters already in the area converging on the accident and orbiting the scene. The first rescuers on the scene saw a man lying in burning grass next to a burning sedan. The victim was extricated and prepared for airlift while firefighters turned to fighting the blaze, spreading to an acre of grassland.
A little more than two acres of grassland eventually burned as a result of the accident, according to Moraga-Orinda Fire Chief Stephen Healy, with MOFD fire crews calling in a heavy response in an effort to surround it.
The fire was confined to grassland on a nearby cattle ranch, according to Healy, and no structures or livestock were threatened or injured. It was declared contained at around 1:56 p.m. with one firefighter suffering a minor injury. The 1-alarm blaze was eventually brought under control by personnel from MOFD, CAL Fire, and East Bay Regional Parks. A CALSTAR medical helicopter, Moraga police and Orinda police also responded. The fire remains under investigation.
Canyon Rd. was closed between Constance Place in Moraga and Pinehurst Rd. until it was reopened by police shortly after 6 p.m.