Collision that killed Sonora’s ‘flower guy’

Murphys resident Penny Miles had such high levels of a cocktail of drugs in her system on the day she caused a double fatal crash on Highway 49, she very well could have “passed out” while driving, according to Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio.

The toxicology report showed she had acetaminophen, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, alprazolam, trazodone and methadone in her system.

“She was overdosed,” Raggio said.

The report came back showing “potentially toxic” levels of more than one drug in her system.

“Depending on when she took them, they could have hit her at any time,” Raggio said. “They probably took effect while she was driving, and she quite possibly could have passed out at those levels.”

Officer Jaime Castillo with the California Highway Patrol said he did not know whether Miles had a prescription for the drugs in her system, and CHP didn’t plan on finding out.

“We’ll just say she was under the influence of prescription medication, and that was determined to be the cause of the collision,” he said. “We don’t know if she was prescribed those or not. You’d have to talk to her family and doctors and stuff like that.”

“With this case, prescription medication, why she had such large amounts, that’s up to her doctors,” he continued. “Whether she abused those amounts, is up to her doctors or her own personal responsibility.”

Penny Ann “Harris” Miles, 52, died Sept. 29 on Highway 49 just south of the Calaveras County Airport from injuries sustained in a head-on collision. The crash also killed Eleazar “Ed” Rodriguez Ochoa, 49, and left his 10-year-old daughter Stacey in critical condition. She barely survived.

Evidence found in the wreckage led a CHP officer to write in his report he suspected Miles may have been under the influence, which could have been a contributing factor in the collision. Whether she was suspected to be under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both was not made clear by the California Highway Patrol.

On the day of the crash, Miles was driving a 2007 Toyota Tacoma southbound when she allowed it to veer across double yellow lines and into oncoming traffic at 12:55 p.m.

In the initial report, CHP said this unsafe driving movement was “possibly due to her intoxication.”

That suspicion was confirmed upon the receipt of the toxicology report.

Rodriguez Ochoa, who was known as the “flower guy,” was a regular at the Sonora Farmers Market. He was returning from the farmers market on a Saturday afternoon in a 1996 Chevy 16-foot box truck when Miles’ vehicle veered directly in front of him, which caused the head-on collision, the report said. Both vehicles sustained major damage, and when emergency medical personnel arrived on scene both Miles and Rodriguez were pronounced dead, the report continued.

Rodriguez’s daughter was riding in the front passenger seat of his truck. She was transported via life flight to UC Davis Medical Center to be treated for major injuries, the report said.

All those involved were wearing seatbelts, and the speed at which each vehicle was traveling was not known.

“It makes a difference when you mix things,” Raggio said of the many prescription drugs in Miles’ system. “She was toxic on methadone. The whole cocktail there,” he said referring to the toxicology report, “shows she was very much under the influence.”

 Contact Joel Metzger at