Fallen firefighter honored with highway dedication in Los Banos

LOS BANOS, Calif. (KFSN) -- A stretch of Highway 165 between Pioneer Road and Berkeley Drive in Los Banos is now named after a firefighter who died in a tragic crash back in 2011.

Family, friends, and former colleagues of Andrew Maloney gathered for a ceremony to unveil the highway signs Monday morning at Fire Station 71.

Assemblymember Adam Gray said, "Andrew is remembered as having a great heart, educating children about fire safety, pitching in as a great barbecue cook for his comrades, even though he was a vegetarian."

Maloney began his career as a paid call firefighter at the Merced County station before joining Calfire. He loved adventure and even tackled the Appalachian Trail with his dad. Shannon Maloney told Action News, "We scuba dived together, we skydived together. We had a good life for as long as his lasted."

In June of 2011, Maloney was riding his motorcycle on Highway 165 when a woman driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol crashed into him while making a left turn onto Pioneer Road. He died three days later at the age of 29. The driver later pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail but was quickly placed under house arrest instead due to overcrowding.

Merced County Supervisor Scott Silveira previously served as Fire Chief for the volunteer crew at station 71. He said, "When I heard the news of the tragic accident, a big hole was left in our hearts here at 71."

Fellow firefighters later began working to have a stretch of the highway where Maloney was killed named after him. They raised money for the signs and turned to Assemblymember Gray for the required resolution. Their efforts came to fruition during Monday's ceremony as the sign that will face southbound traffic was unveiled.

Shannon Maloney said, "It's a great honor for me to know that my son was so well appreciated and that he's missed as much as he is."

Caltrans crews quickly went to work to install both signs as a lasting tribute to a young man who made a tremendous impact on his community.

Merced County Calfire Battalion Chief Chris Bernard was a close friend of Maloney's. He said, "We get to drive by and see it and remember his name, and hopefully people will never forget."
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