MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) --A former Merced County Commissioner died Wednesday morning in a DUI crash. Officials believe 68-year-old Ralph Cook's girlfriend was behind the wheel.
A terrifying scene on southbound Highway 99 near Merced after the California Highway Patrol said a 2015 Mercedes veered out of the fast lane and crashed, killing the front passenger just before 5:00 a.m.
"When she went into the right shoulder she hit a guard rail, the guardrail went through the vehicle's windshield, went through the back end, but the guardrail hit the front passenger," said Luis Lara, California Highway Patrol.
The accident killed Cook, who presided over cases at the Merced County Courthouse.
"Our coroner's division worked with Solano County and they made notification to Judge Cook's daughter, and the unfortunate news about his passing this morning as a result of a car crash," said Sheriff Vern Warnke, Merced Co. Sheriff's Office.
The tragic turn of events first started at around midnight at Kewl Kat's Bar in Merced. The owner tells Action News 38-year-old Jacqulin Calixtro had been drinking there when Cook showed up to see her. The two went out into the parking lot where they appeared to have a disagreement. That's when another man came up to Cook and punched him, knocking him to the ground.
Police are reviewing surveillance video to identify any suspects.
After the assault Cook was flown to a hospital in Modesto and then released.
The CHP confirms the couple in the car was coming from Stanislaus County.
Officers on scene said Calixtro was showing signs of intoxication.
"They did conduct a field sobriety test here on scene, the officer determined she was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision," said Lara.
Those who knew Cook are shocked by his death, saying he was passionate about the law.
"He truly loved what he was doing, and for that we lost a good man and also a friend of the courts," said Warnke.
In addition to felony DUI, Calixtro was also arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter.