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Sunday, 14 February 2016 11:16


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MERCED COUNTY, CA - On 02/13/2016, at approximately 07:35 a.m., Merced Area CHP Officers were notified of a traffic collision involving a Truck-Tractor hauling milk and several other vehicles. As officers responded to the collision scene they received updated information notifying them that an additional traffic collision had occurred and that the initial traffic collision may be a fatal traffic collision.

Officers arrived on scene and noted visibility to be approximately 50 feet due to dense fog. Officers began assisting parties who were involved in the collisions when they audibly heard two additional collisions south of their location. Through the course of the initial on-scene investigation, it was determined that the driver of a truck-tractor hauling milk, left a private drive located on the west shoulder of state route 59. He began a left turn onto northbound state route 59 and had almost completed the turn when a blue Dodge Ram struck the left rear of the truck-tractor’s trailer. As a result of the collision the Dodge Ram was disabled. The driver of a Chevrolet Tahoe traveling southbound approached the collision scene from the north and struck the disabled Dodge Ram.

The driver of the Dodge Ram was identified as Eduardo Barajasaguilar, 38-years-old, from Empire, CA. The two deceased passengers were 35-years-old and 47-years-old  and both are from Lodi, CA. Merced County Sheriff's Coroner's officer is expected to release the men's names pending notification of next-of-kin.

The driver of the truck-tractor has been identified as Rafael B. Hernandez, 55-years-old from El Nido, CA.

A fourth vehicle (Chevrolet Astro van) that was following behind the Chevrolet Tahoe was also unable to avoid the Dodge Ram and struck the Dodge’s left front corner. As a result of the collision the driver of the Dodge Ram was pinned into the driver’s seat and had to be extricated by fire personnel. The driver of the Dodge Ram sustained major injuries and was transported by Riggs ambulance to Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto. The two passengers of the Dodge Ram sustained fatal injuries as a result of the collision and both were pronounced deceased at the scene of the collision. The remaining parties were uninjured.

South of the initial fatal traffic collision, three additional collisions occurred. The second collision involved six separate vehicles resulting in one of the drivers being injured. The third collision involved two vehicles and was non injury. The final traffic collision involved a total of four vehicles and no one involved was injured. The distance between the four collisions stretched approximately a 1/4 mile to a half of a mile. Sixteen total vehicles were involved in the four traffic collisions. As a result of the collisions a closure of state route 59 was put in place with the assistance of Cal-Trans. The detours were placed on state route 59 north of Vassar Road and also on state route 59 at Sandy Mush Road. The closure of state route 59 was in place until approximately 12:40 p.m.

These collisions remain under investigation. It is unknown at this time if DUI was a factor.

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