FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Three young California Conservation Corps workers are dead following a crash in Fresno County. It happened Tuesday morning just after 8:00 at the intersection of South and Buttonwillow. The intersection was closed for most of the day due to the investigation.
Two vans of workers left Tuesday morning, bound for Dinuba, where they were going to replace grass with drought-tolerant plants. Sadly, one of the vans never made it.
Serena Guadarrama was a very hard worker according to family and friends. So the California Conservation Corps was a great fit for the recent graduate of Gateway High School. "She would come home just exhausted from the day. But, she was proud, and she wanted to make a life for herself," said Shauny Wilcox, family friend.
Serena just turned 18. Her older sister said, although she was young, she was very determined. "She made everyone smile. She had a great sense of humor and she did very well in school. I was so proud of her. She got scholarships and everything. Just the fact that she's gone, now, when she was just starting her life now-- kills me," said Vinessa Guadarrama, victim's sister.
Serena was one of six people riding in this white van Tuesday morning when California Highway Patrol officers said the driver initially stopped at the two-way stop sign and then proceeded. Also killed were 21-year-old Justin Van Meter and 20-year-old Rhonda Shackelford. "Once it pulled out, directly in the path-- the dump truck broadsided the van. Both traveled in a southeast direction," said Axel Reyes, California Highway Patrol.
Officers said a second Conservation Corps van was behind the one that crashed and the driver witnessed the horrific impact. The crews had been working on a project in Dinuba near Lincoln School replacing turf with drought-tolerant plants.
Weather conditions were cool and clear at the time of the crash. Officers do not believe the semi-truck driver was exceeding the 55 mile an hour speed limit, but the force was still substantial. "It's fully loaded, so it's hard to stop as it is. Yea, it's quite the impact coming down, at any speed really," said Reyes.
Investigators said it is unclear if all six people in the van were all wearing seat belts.
For most of the day the intersection was shut down while investigators took measurements and collected evidence.
Another passenger in the van was critically hurt and is being treated at Community Regional Medical Center for major injuries.
Also, a spokesperson for the Conservation Corps issued a statement expressing their deepest sympathy to victims families.
The family of Rhonda Shackelford set up a GoFundMe account for donations. If you would like to donate click here.
Serena Guadarrama's family also has a GoFundMe for her funeral expenses, if you wish to donate click here.
To donate to help the family of Justin Van Meter, you can find their GoFundMe here.