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Atwater collision ruled suicide

POSTED October 22, 2010 8:55 p.m.

A three-vehicle collision on Highway 140 near Atwater on Tuesday that left one dead was caused by a suicidal man, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

The one fatality was identified by the sheriff’s department as 40-year-old Jason Andrew Shelter of Atwater. Sheriff spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie said a suicide note was found in the wreckage, in which Shelter apologized to his family and friends.

The collision occurred around 11:30 a.m. on Highway 140, just west of Hull Road. According to the California Highway Patrol, Shelter was driving a 1986 Nissan pickup truck westbound on the highway at an unknown speed, when he suddenly veered into the path of a semi truck traveling around 55 mph in the eastbound lane.

The two vehicles collided head on and Shelter was ejected from the pickup. The Nissan overturned and came to a stop in an irrigation canal. Shelter was pronounced dead at the scene.

The big rig, which was pulling a double trailer, overturned onto its side and skidded across the highway, colliding with a 2002 Ford Taurus driving westbound on the highway.

The driver of the Taurus, Yolanda Charlton, 53, of Merced sustained major injuries and was transported to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, according to the CHP.

The big rig driver, 40-year-old Arestides Fontes, had minor injuries and told the CHP he would seek medical aid on his own.

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