The CHP has identified the two fallen officers as Brian Law and Juan Gonzalez.
The call for the first crash came shortly after 5 a.m. Monday. The driver of a pickup truck spun out of control and crashed into the center divider.
Juan Gonzalez, 33, was driving his partner, Brian Law, 34, to the accident, but dispatch told them it was on the other side of the freeway -- so the pickup surprised them. The officers crashed into the pickup truck on Southbound 99 north of Sierra and were killed. The driver of the pickup truck wasn't injured.
"The officers took evasive actions to avoid striking any of the parties from the previous collision, lost control of the vehicle, struck the guardrail and severely crashed," said Capt. Dave Paris, CHP.
The California Highway Patrol's top administrator, Joe Farrow, came all the way from Sacramento to see the crash scene in person. Gonzalez and Law are the 10th and 11th CHP officers to die in the line of duty in his 6 years as commissioner. "You take the best precautions you possibly can, you train well, you give them the best equipment, but this is and always will be a dangerous occupation," said Farrow.
The CHP and Caltrans shut down a section of southbound Highway 99 for nearly nine hours on Monday. Cars and big rigs were backed up for miles as they were rerouted from the Mountain View exit to Sierra Avenue in Kingsburg. The CHP shut down an area of southbound 99 because the accident scenes spread across all lanes of the highway.
The CHP said their MAIT team is investigating the crash. They said the team is very thorough and can sometimes take months conducting their investigation, so every piece of evidence, every tire mark and chunk of debris is important.
"From what we gather a couple hundred feet and that's also including the first crash they're gathering measurements from that first one as well," Axel Reyes with the California Highway Patrol said. Officer Brian Law and his close friend, Officer Juan Gonzalez, were partners on the overnight shift. "They were classmates together," said CHP Captain Dave Paris. "They attended 27 weeks of training at the academy together, became good friends."
"This is, and always will be a very dangerous occupation," said CHP Commander Joe Farrow. On Monday, every officer across the state was wearing a black band over their badge to remember the officers lost. Governor Jerry Brown sent his condolences and ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff.
Both officers worked for the CHP in the Bay Area before coming to Fresno just over a year ago. Law started his patrols in Oakland. "He was low key," said Officer Sean Wilkenfeld. "As I said he loved to workout, into sports. He was just a standup guy."
Law lived in Clovis and leaves behind a wife and three young children.
Juan Gonzalez lived in Fresno and began his patrols in San Jose. "Always taking care of his responsibilities, any calls that he handled," said Officer Ross Lee. "[He] never seemed to have any type of bad attitude about any aspect of the job."
Gonzalez attended Fresno State, and was a member of the Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity. The organization is remembering his life on the fraternity Facebook page.
"They know every day they get in a patrol car driving or responding to a 911 call that they could become victims of an assault or traffic collision," CHP Capt. Paris said. "It's always in their mind."
The California Highway Patrol says the last officer to die on the job in the central division was in 2005. Officer Erick Manny was killed in a rollover crash in Southern California near the Grapevine. But in the Central Valley, the last CHP officer to die in the line of duty was in 1980.
Officer Donald Holloway, 37, was a licensed private pilot. He was using his personal aircraft to fly to a court appearance where he was testifying in a criminal case. Holloway was returning to his home in Coalinga when his aircraft crashed, killing him instantly. Donald Holloway had been a member of the CHP for 11 years.
PRESS RELEASE: Governor Brown Issues Statement on Deaths of Two CHP Officers
SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement regarding the deaths of California Highway Patrol Officers Brian Law and Juan Gonzalez:
"Anne and I extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of Officers Law and Gonzalez as they mourn the tragic loss of these dedicated public servants. We join all Californians in honoring these officers for their courage, commitment and service."
Law, 34, of Clovis, and Gonzalez, 33, of Fresno, were killed in a collision while responding to a crash on Highway 99 in Kingsburg this morning.
Officers Law and Gonzalez were assigned to CHP's Fresno Area Office. Following their graduation from the Academy in April 2008, Officer Gonzalez was assigned to the CHP's San Jose Area Office before transferring to the Fresno Area Office in May 2010. Officer Law was assigned to the CHP's Oakland Area Office before transferring to the Fresno Area Office in January 2013.
Officer Law is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and three children, Brandon, Lauren and Samantha. Officer Gonzalez is survived by his mother, Maria, and sister, Sandra.
In honor of Officers Law and Gonzalez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.