Family members said the 25-year-old driver of a mangled pick-up truck had been celebrating Christmas Eve with a house full of relative's just hours before the crash that killed him and the 25 year old driver of the car he slammed into.
Highway patrol officers said the truck was heading east on Dickenson Ferry Road in Merced County when the young man ran a stop sign and broadsided a Ford Focus that was heading south on Gurr road.
"Both vehicles overturned several times, the drivers of each vehicle sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced dead on scene," said Shane Ferriera, California Highway Patrol.
On Christmas day, devastated friends and family members gathered at the crash site to console one another and collect pieces of the wreckage that were scattered for several yards. Among the debris, a picture of the young man they've identified as Stevie Cardoza, who was driving the truck.
His friends did not want to speak on camera, but they said Cardoza enjoyed spending time at Pismo Beach, and they put orange flags from his truck in the ground as a tribute to him. His aunt also said he had a great sense of humor and that he was planning to become a cop.
She said two of his cousins were in the truck with him at the time of the crash. They've been identified as 16-year-old Travis Castrano and 25-year-old Jenny Correia. Officers said they suffered only minor injuries.
But 16-year-old Cassandra Garcia, who was in the other car, was flown to a Modesto hospital with major injuries.
"It is a tragedy, you have young people on the roadway, especially this time of the year, it's gotta be tough on the families of those involved," said Shane.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, and there's no word yet on whether alcohol may have been involved.