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Local News

SLOStringer Killed in Crash on Highway 101 on His Way to House Fire in Atascadero

The California Highway Patrol said the driver of a SUV died Tuesday morning when the vehicle left Highway 101, rolled and crashed into a tree. Click to view larger
The California Highway Patrol said the driver of a SUV died Tuesday morning when the vehicle left Highway 101, rolled and crashed into a tree.  (Joe Johnston / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

Matthew Frank, the local photographer and news gatherer known as SLOStringer, was killed early Tuesday morning in a crash north of the Cuesta Grade while driving responding to a house fire in Atascadero, his mother confirmed Tuesday.

“He was out being SLOStringer. He was trying to bring news to the community,” Jacquelyn Frank said. She said San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies delivered the news to her and her husband this morning.

Over the last few years, Frank, 30, of San Luis Obispo worked anonymously across the Central Coast responding to breaking news, building up a loyal following of readers who turned to him for updates on local emergencies and disasters.

He was especially active on last summer’s Chimney Fire at Lake Nacimiento, sharing photos and updates from the lines.

“He was the finest individual you’d ever meet,” his mother said, describing his positive relationship with SLO County first responders. “He loved the community service he did.”

She added that Frank kept his identity a secret because “he didn’t want pats on the back.”

The crash happened at about 3:50 a.m., when Frank’s blue 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe traveled off Highway 101, rolled, crashed into a tree and caught fire. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Matthew Frank, who posted online as SLOStringer, works the scene of a fire in Oceano on May 13, 2016. Click to view larger
Matthew Frank, who posted online as SLOStringer, works the scene of a fire in Oceano on May 13, 2016. (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune file photo)

On Tuesday, friends and supporters flooded his Facebook page with messages of grief and admiration.

“You were our very own super hero. You’re already so missed. RIP,” wrote Emilie Foster.

“Looking at your page and seeing all of the questions about the earlier crash. Now finding out that you were the one involved in the crash is heartbreaking,” wrote Valerie Kiara Luka Hudnall.

“So many of us didn’t know you by name or have any clue where you came from or what motivated you to do what you so selflessly did. ... But we all know what you became to us ... Thank you for your dedication to your community, SLOStringer,” wrote Corinne Harrison.

Gabby Ferreira is a staff writer for the San Luis Obispo Tribune and can be reached at [email protected]

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