Man’s body found near car that crashed down Groveland embankment, CHP says

The body of a 22-year-old Lodi man was found near the wreckage of a 2003 Honda Accord on Tuesday afternoon off Highway 120 in Tuolumne County, the California Highway Patrol reported.

About 2:20 p.m., CHP officers got a call of a possible vehicle over the side of the highway east of Grizzly Creek. “A local Groveland resident out on a hike saw what he believed was a car down the embankment,” Sonora-area CHP spokesman Officer Faustino Pulido said in an email Wednesday. “Using binoculars, he noticed the vehicle was a newer model and notified CHP. It is unknown when the collision occurred.”

During an extensive search, the badly damaged Honda was found about 200 feet down the embankment. The man’s body was nearby. It appears he had not been wearing a seat belt, the CHP said.

The crash victim has not been positively identified, the CHP said in a news release Thursday, but the Honda is registered to a man reported missing from Lodi.

According to news and social media reports, Nelson Valdez, who is 22 and was driving a red Accord, left Lodi before 5 a.m. Jan. 24 for Yosemite National Park. He said he would call to let his parents know when he arrived, but the call never came.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.