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Turlock woman dies after driving car into sewage pond

POSTED September 23, 2009 12:12 a.m.
A Turlock woman lost her life Friday night, when in the course of leaving one wreck, she plunged off an embankment and crashed into a sewage pond.
The woman was identified by the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office as Alicia Hair-Conger, 26.
According to the Modesto Police department, which handled the fatal accident investigation, Hair-Conger was fleeing the scene of a minor collision when she lost control of her car and crashed into a sewage pond at the Waterford Wastewater Treatment Facility.
“It is unclear as to why she left that first accident scene,” said Modesto Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian Findlen.
Hair-Conger was driving a Pontiac Grand Am in the area of Yosemite Boulevard and Western Avenue in Waterford around 7 p.m. Friday. Findlen said Hair-Conger was involved in a minor collision at the intersection and the initial indication was that she had failed to stop for a posted stop sign.
A male passenger got out of the Grand Am to inspect the damage and talk to the other driver. For an unknown reason, Hair-Conger sped off at that point.
Hair-Conger went southbound on Western Avenue at an approximate speed of 50 mph in the 25 mph zone, Findlen said.
Western Avenue makes a sharp left turn near Riverside Road, which Hair-Conger was unable to navigate at that speed, Findlen said.
She lost control of the car and crashed through a locked gate at the wastewater treatment facility. The vehicle continued down a 100-foot embankment and into the wastewater pond and quickly became submerged.
Hair-Conger’s friend and a resident ran to the second accident site and got into the sewage pond to try and rescue Hair-Conger, who was still inside the vehicle, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, which also responded to the accident.
Two Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies as well as a Stanislaus Consolidated Firefighter joined the two men and entered the sewage pond to search for Hair-Conger. The men got out of the pond after several failed attempts to reach Hair-Conger.
A decontamination area was set up at the site for the individuals who got into the sewage pond. All were transported to area hospitals as a medical precaution.
“This particular pond is raw, untreated sewage. It is highly toxic and hazardous,” said City of Waterford Public Works Director Matt Erickson.
A tow truck with special equipment for retrieving hazardous material was called out to the scene and the Waterford Public Works Department drained the pond by several feet. The vehicle, with Hair-Conger’s body still inside, was pulled out of the sewage pond hours later.
Members from the Modesto Police Department’s Major Accident Investigation Team were called in to handle the collision portion of the investigation. The MPD has an inter-agency agreement with the sheriff’s department to investigate fatal or major injury accidents.
The investigation showed that Hair-Conger tried to stop the car before it crashed through the gate, Findlen said. The investigators also found no evidence to indicate that Hair-Conger was chased or forced off the road.
“It’s unfortunate that she chose to leave the scene and, tragically, that choice was fatal,” Findlen said.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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