A pickup truck that veered into oncoming traffic on Highway 99 in Merced County struck three vehicles, resulting in multiple injuries and one fatality Monday afternoon.
The name of the deceased has not been released pending next of kin notification. He was a 50-year-old man from Sacramento.
The collision happened on southbound Highway 99 near the Collier Road exit around 12:45 p.m. Monday.
James Wolf, 52, of Merced was driving northbound on Highway 99 in a Ford F-250 pickup at an unknown speed when for some as yet undetermined reason, he allowed the pickup truck to cross over the center divider and into the southbound lanes of the highway, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Traveling in the left lane of southbound Highway 99 at about 65 mph was a 2015 Dodge Challenger. In the area of the Challenger was a 1993 Toyota pickup, also traveling at about 65 mph. Behind the Toyota and the Challenger was a 2015 Freight Liner flat bed truck towing a trailer loaded with a forklift. It was moving at about 55 mph in the middle lane, according to the CHP.
The Ford pickup struck both the Challenger and the Toyota head-on and sideswiped the Freight Liner before coming to a stop.
The Challenger was being driven by 33-year-old Juan Sanchez, who sustained minor injuries from the crash and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. One of his passengers sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. His other passenger, Miguel Sanchez, 59, of Sacramento was taken by air ambulance to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto with major injuries, the CHP reported.
The driver of the Toyota — Edmundo Cosio, 43, of Delhi — and the driver of the Freight Liner — Salvador Cervantes, 37, of Merced — both reported escaping the collision unharmed.
Wolf sustained minor injuries and was taken by ground ambulance to a nearby hospital.
The collision remains under investigation, but at this time the CHP does not believe alcohol played a factor in the crash.
The impact caused the trailer to become detached from the Freight Liner, causing a traffic back-up that stretched for miles.