Tom Smith Dies

by AVA News Service, June 4, 2010

Tom Smith

Tom Smith died late Monday afternoon at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa from the multiple injuries he'd suffered the previous Thursday in a collision on Highway 128.

His passing has shocked the Anderson Valley. He had been expected to survive.

The popular Valley resident was headed to his home on Gschwend Road, Navarro, about 7:30 last Thursday evening when a vehicle driven by Luis Alberto Guerra-Perez, 26, of Boonville, suddenly swerved from the oncoming lane into Smith's 1994 Toyota pick-up.

Smith's truck was so badly damaged it took rescue workers almost fifteen minutes to extract him from the wreckage. He was then airlifted to Santa Rosa for treatment of multiple injuries which, singly, were not life threatening but, cumulatively, took his life.

Smith, 62, often laughed at having survived serial catastrophes, beginning with the chronic hepatitis he'd fought since he was a young man. That condition would lead to two liver transplants. The Smiths, vacationing in Thailand, also survived the great Asian tsunami of 2004.

Guerra was uninjured by the collision but, from all accounts, he'd clearly been drinking and, an eyewitness said, "looked like he was in a state of shock."

Abandoning his 1996 Ford Ranger at the scene, Guerra soon departed with a woman driving a white pick-up truck. Police have not released her name. Witnesses said she seemed to have been following Guerra when the accident occurred.

Unconfirmed rumors say that friends had urged Guerra not to leave a nearby social gathering in the alcohol-addled state he appeared to be in. Guerra, after the accident, was quickly identified and, within hours, had been uneventfully taken into custody at his Boonville home on Anderson Valley Way. He was booked into the County Jail on multiple charges related to driving under the influence. Guerra remains in jail. Late Tuesday afternoon his bail was raised to $150,000 in anticipation of the much more serious charge of vehicular manslaughter. Guerra is not known to have a criminal history. He is said to be distraught about the accident, which occurred in otherwise unimpaired driving conditions.

Tom Smith was well-known and highly regarded in the Anderson Valley. He'd served on the local school board and, almost single-handedly, had begun a high school soccer program. Anderson Valley's teams, under Smith's direction, frequently appeared in regional playoffs. The soccer pitch at the high school is named after him.

Mrs. Val Smith is a long-time teacher at the Anderson Valley Elementary School. She was with her husband of 30 years when he died Monday afternoon. The couple's many friends have always remarked on how devoted the Smiths were to each other. The Smiths' two sons, Olie, 28, and Jesse, 26, had traveled from out-of-state to be with their mother at the hospital. The Smiths will soon return to their Navarro home, but the family understandably prefers not to have visitors or calls at this terrible time, but well-wishers are welcome to reach them by e-mail at tom_val_smith@yahoo.com.

The lengthy interview with Tom Smith by Steve Sparks can be viewed on-line at avalleylife.wordpress.com.

It is anticipated that a memorial gathering will be held before the end of June.

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