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Hilmar driver struck and killed waiting to turn into driveway

A Hilmar man was killed Monday night when he stopped to turn into his driveway and his vehicle was struck from behind by a tow truck.

The deceased was identified as James Merrifield, 28, of Hilmar.

The collision happened on Lander Avenue north of American Avenue at 5:40 p.m. Monday, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Merrifield was driving a Honda Civic northbound on Lander. He had come to a stop as he awaited traffic in the southbound lane to pass so that he could turn left into his driveway, according to the CHP.

A tow truck driven by Francisco Padilla Jr., 32 of Turlock was approaching Merrifield’s Civic. For a reason that is unknown at this time Padilla did not slow down and smashed into the back of the Civic. The CHP estimates the tow truck was going around 35 miles per hour when it hit the Civic.

The force of the impact sent the Civic into the southbound lane where it was struck by a tanker truck on the passenger side.

The tow truck continued in a northwesterly direction and collided with the tanker truck. The tow truck sheared off a valve on the tanker causing molasses to pour steadily out and coat Lander.

Merrifield was rushed by ambulance to  Emanuel Medical Center where he died from the injuries he had sustained.

Padilla had minor injuries but declined medical treatment.

The tanker truck driver, Fabio Da Rocha, 34, of Denair was not injured.

The CHP said drugs and alcohol did not appear to be factors in the collision. The investigation is ongoing.