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Big rig pile up ends in fire, death
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A fiery pile-up involving three semi trucks along a stretch of Highway 99 in Turlock resulted in the death of one man.

The deceased was one of the drivers of the big rigs. He has tentatively been identified by the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office, but they were not releasing his name until verification can be made with dental records. The deceased was driving a 2007 Freightliner.

The two other drivers opted to seek medical attention on their own, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Eric Parsons. All three men involved in the crash were wearing seat belts.

The collision occurred just after midnight Wednesday on Highway 99 between Lander Avenue and a rest stop.

According to the CHP, the pile-up was a result of one semi slowing to allow another to merge in.

A 2004 Sterling tractor-trailer driven by Marcus Trask, 41, of Selma had stopped along the shoulder of the freeway and was attempting to merge back into the right lane.

Jaime Henriquez, 56, of Fresno was driving a 2005 Freightliner, which was also hauling a trailer. Henriquez slowed down to let the other big rig move off the shoulder and into the lane, according to the CHP. As Henriquez was slowing, a third big rig was approaching.

CHP investigators believe that the driver of the third big rig in the chain didn’t see the truck in front of him slow down and crashed into the back of the semi truck. The speed that the 2007 Freightliner was traveling at when the impact happened has not yet been determined, Parsons said.

The impact started a chain reaction that sent the second big rig crashing into the first truck.

The collision caused the cab of the 2007 Freightliner to crumble in on itself and sparked a fire, which quickly engulfed the truck. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The fire grew in strength and spread to the second semi and a grassy field alongside the freeway. The Turlock Rural Fire Department was on hand to fight the flames.

The freight being hauled by the tractor-trailers was spilled out across the highway and a front-end loader had to be brought in to clean the debris, Parsons said.

Investigators have not yet determined if alcohol or drugs played a role in the fatal crash.

The crash closed down all three lanes of the highway for two hours. The center and right lanes remained closed for an additional nine hours for the investigation and clean-up work.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.