Three dead, one injured in head-on crash near Merced

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The CHP says three people are dead after a driver tried to pass two cars, but slammed into another driver coming the opposite direction. (KFSN)

Three people are dead after California Highway Patrol officers said a driver tried to pass two cars but slammed into another driver coming in the opposite direction near Merced.

"It was passing a big rig and some other type of vehicle, so they're going to be our key witnesses," CHP Officer Eric Zuniga said.

It happened on Yosemite Avenue near Kibby Road at about 9:30 A.M. on Tuesday.

CHP officers said a 40-year-old man was driving a Nissan Sentra was headed toward Merced. He tried passing the two cars. Officers said he died at the scene, while his passenger, a man around the same age, died at a nearby hospital.

The driver of the Honda was also a man in his mid-forties. He also died at the site of the crash. His passenger was a woman in her seventies. She was flown out and is recovering at an area hospital.

"As a first responder, you come out here and see that some of these collisions could be avoided by paying attention when you're driving, and speed might be a factor to this collision," Zuniga said.

The Merced County Sheriff and Coroner, Vern Warnke, said they would perform an autopsy to confirm exactly how the victims they died.

"Our role at this point is what we're going to call an external autopsy, and then we'll be making blood withdrawals to determine if there were any chemical influences," Warnke said.

The posted speed limit is 55 mph. Warnke says the rural area is a common site for speed.

"I personally stopped vehicles on that road in excess of 100 mph. That's not uncommon on any road, but that specific stretch seems to be a thoroughfare to get to UC Merced or Yosemite Avenue because there are no stop signs," Warnke said.

California Highway Patrol officers say the driver of the Honda attempted to stop. However, the collision is still under investigation.

Officers say the driver of the Nissan is from Atwater, while the driver of the Honda is from of Merced. Investigators haven't released their identities because they're still working on notifying families.
Related Topics:
traffic fatalitiesCHPtraffic accidentMercedMerced County
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