Night trip to store led to fatal Highway 49 crash for widowed mother of two

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It was an everyday kind of thing, maybe a little out of the ordinary because of the time of night. Since her husband, Jeffrey, had died two years ago, Tamara Adams had sometimes gone out for a night drive in her SUV. “She had trouble sleeping and liked to get out and clear her mind,” her daughter, Brittany said Thursday. Early Tuesday, Tamara Adams – a mother of two who was seeing some daylight after a couple of years of troubled financial times – didn’t come back from a night drive. Her son, 17-year-old Jeffrey Adams Jr., said she was upbeat as she left for the store to buy some jerky. As she left, he recalled Thursday that he had a fleeting thought to phone her on the cell phone to ask her to come back home and just go to bed. But Jeffrey Jr. never made the call. About six hours later, Jeffrey Jr. was awakened by his grandmother, who told him the terrible news. His mother had been killed in a single-vehicle crash south of Combie Road, near Lake of the Pines. The crash took place just before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. The tragedy is the second for the Adams children in three years. Their father, and Tamara’s husband of 19 years, died of a heart attack in 2007. A supermarket employee who had retired and found a second career selling cars at CarMax, Jeffrey Adams Sr. was the breadwinner and his death sent the now-fatherless family into a tailspin. The family’s house in South Nevada County was eventually repossessed by the bank when payments couldn’t be kept up any longer. Jeffrey Jr. and Tamara had moved into her mother’s North Auburn home, while Brittany, 21, was off at school. But things were starting to look up before Tuesday’s crash. Jeffrey Jr. said that only this past weekend, he and his mother had identified some rental homes in the area that she could afford on her limited Social Security income. “We were closer to settling down and having a normal, simple life again,” he said. Jeffrey Jr. said his mother didn’t drink, so alcohol wouldn’t have been a factor in what is being termed by the California Highway Patrol as a wrong-way crash. “She would never, ever drink,” he said. “She would say she wanted to ‘Be here 100 percent for you guys,’ that she wanted our lives to be better and she would fix it.” Brittany, 21, a University of California, Santa Cruz student, and Jeffrey Jr., who’s a junior at Bear River High School, are now planning a memorial service to take place on a yet-to-be-determined date. “She was the kind of mom that people would say ‘You have such cool parents,’” Brittany said. “She was always a team mom, helping with leadership projects and extra-curricular activities at the school. She got along with everyone.” Born and raised in Walnut Creek, Tamara Adams had married Jeffrey Sr. in 1988, after meeting while both worked at the Lucky supermarket chain. They lived in Sacramento and while Jeffrey Sr. continued to work at the supermarket, Tamara had her own daycare business. The Adams family moved to South Nevada County in 1999 to be closer to Tamara’s parents. Jeffrey Sr.’s sudden death hit Tamara hard, said her son. “She was really, really strong and energetic,” Jeffrey Jr. said. “But she was definitely affected.” “I don’t think she was made to love anyone else,” Brittany said. The accident was witnessed by another driver, Highway Patrol Officer Heather Blancarte said Thursday. Jeffrey Jr. said he had learned that the other driver had watched from behind as his mother’s SUV slowly drifted from the right-hand lane to the far left lane traveling north. Speculation is that she drifted off to sleep or was reaching for something, he said. The SUV gained speed just before hitting a guardrail, Jeffrey Jr. said. Tamara Adams died instantly in the crash. Blancarte said she could confirm that a witness saw the crash but that the reporting officer’s investigation report wasn’t available so she couldn’t verify the account Jeffrey Jr. was given. The Nevada County Coroner’s Office’s standard procedure is to take blood samples for toxicology tests but the Highway Patrol can only say the presence of alcohol or drugs as a factor in the crash is “unknown” at this time. As a girl, Tamara Adams dreamed of becoming a figure skater. As a woman, she dreamed of a better life and moved to South Nevada County. As a widow, she dreamed of the best for her children. Brittany said that she’s comforted by a conversation she had hours before her mother’s death. “We had spoken the afternoon before and we’d said to each other how much we loved each other,” Brittany said. “That’s all you can wish for.”