Media Life: National Geographic I-80 series highlights Auburn highway death

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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AUBURN CA - Viewers of “Hell on the Highway,” the 10-part National Geographic Channel series on the travails of keeping Interstate 80 over Donner Summit safe in the winter, are also catching glimpses of a freeway-based tragedy that gripped this area in the spring.

Most of the footage for the series was shot by nine film crews during 20,000 man-hours of work this past winter and spring in the High Sierra near Truckee. But crews also dropped down into the Sacramento Valley to film a touching tribute in the form of a tow-truck procession to honor David “Davey” Robinson Jr.

Robinson, 30, was killed in a hit-and-run collision on I-80, just west of Auburn on March 20. A National Geographic film crew wasn’t in the courtroom this past week when the driver was sentenced to four years in state prison for hit-and-run driving causing death.

But the Burbank-based Morningstar Entertainment production team started airing footage this past Wednesday shot by the Auburn Journal immediately after the crash and will be telling Robinson’s story throughout ensuing episodes.

David Robinson Sr. told Media Life that he’s hopeful the reality series will help shed more light on the deadly serious issue of emergency personnel – including tow-truck drivers – putting their lives at risk on a daily basis. The “Deadliest Catch” clone will be showing plenty of close calls as well as highlighting the death of David Robinson Jr., who was out of his tow-truck and lost his life in a state that fines drivers just $50 for not moving over and giving safety workers room to work.

“Davey” Robinson’s dad said that “Hell on the Highway” should provide a boost to supporters’ efforts to change state laws and put up warning signs on the freeway.

“Hell on the Highway” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on the National Geographic Channel.


New face on KCRA

There will be a new face on the KCRA 3 News team starting Dec. 10. Kevin Oliver is coming to Sacramento from WFTV in Orlando, Fla., where he worked for the past nine years. During that time, Oliver covered NASA, from the construction of the International Space Station to the end of the space shuttle program. He also reported from Florida’s east coast during one of the state’s worst hurricane seasons in 2004. Before arriving at WFTV, Oliver worked at TV stations in Medford, Ore. and Spokane, Wash. The new job is a return to California for Oliver, who was born in Long Beach and graduated with a double major in political science and broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California.


Weird Auburn at library

A hearty thanks to the Friends of the Library for providing an opportunity to expand on a series of Weird Auburn snippets in this space over the past few months.

 About 40 people turned out for a Noon Series program last Friday on some of the weird – and wondrous – elements of the area that help give this community some of the character that seems to be lacking in many others.

Putting in research over several weeks that emerged in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, one thing became clear. Some of the Weird Auburn objects that are most visited – including  the 41-foot-high Amazon statues created in the 1970s by Dr. Kenneth Fox – are in danger of being lost and in need of some kind of preservation plan to keep their quirky charm attracting visitors in perpetuity.

Keep reading this column in coming weeks as we take a final look at Weird Auburn’s Top 10, including reader submissions.

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at Also hear Thomson most Fridays at 6 p.m. on Dave Rosenthal’s drive-time radio show on KAHI 950 AM. He’s also a regular guest on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight.” And you can catch up with Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.