One dead, two injured in fiery drunken driving crash in Merced County
By Rob Parsons
One man was killed and two other suffered major injuries Monday night just outside Delhi when a suspected drunken driver drove the wrong way on Highway 99 and slammed into two cars before his own vehicle overturned and burst into flames, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The victim, a 31-year-old Delhi man whose name was not released, was a passenger in a 2016 Toyota Camry driven by Evan Garcia, 35, also of Delhi, according to CHP Officer Eric Zuniga.
Garcia, who later admitted to “consuming several alcoholic beverages before the crash,” was spotted traveling the wrong way in the southbound lane of Highway 99 just after 11:30 p.m. Two CHP officers who were monitoring a Caltrans road project in the area noticed the Camry enter the wrong traffic lane.
The driver of the Camry, later identified by investigators as Garcia, headed north in the southbound lanes of traffic for several miles before he crashed head-on into a 2017 Toyota Corolla driven by Kou Xiong, 30, of Winton. The Corolla overturned and Xiong suffered major internal injuries and was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, Zuniga said.
Garcia’s car continued to move across both lanes of traffic and slammed into a second car, a 2012 Honda Civic driven by Guillermo Benitez, 33, of Livingston. Benitez suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, officers said.
Following the second collision, Garcia’s car overturned on the western shoulder of the Shanks Road off-ramp and burst into flames. CHP officers managed to get Garcia out of the car and tried to rescue the passenger, but the fire spread too quickly and the passenger was trapped inside, authorities said.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Garcia suffered major internal injuries and also was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
“He will be booked upon his release on several felony charges,” Zuniga told the Sun-Star, including felony drunken driving causing death and possibly others. Garcia’s suspected blood-alcohol content level was not available Tuesday.
Zuniga said while Garcia already admitted to drinking before the crash, officers still are working to trace his steps and whereabouts in the hours leading up to the collision.
GARCIA'S FACEBOOK PAGE SAYS THAT HE STARTED WORKING AT THE NEWSPAPER DFA. Working or not, this guy is in some really deep trouble.
DELHI, Calif. (KFSN) -- A driver entered Highway 99 headed the wrong direction, causing a three car crash that killed one person, authorities say.
It all started just after 11:30 Monday night in the area of Highway 99 and Shanks Road in Delhi. CHP says the driver of a Toyota Camry was driving northbound in the southbound lanes where construction was taking place.
The car hit three other vehicles. One of the cars struck overturned and hit the center divider, then hit two other cars. The Camry soon caught fire. The driver was dragged out, but the passenger could not escape the flames. He died at the scene.
CHP officers say they could not pursue the vehicle, since it was going the wrong way.
"Obviously we don't want to pursue them wrong way driver ourselves because that just exasperates it and our policy also strictly prohibits that," said Sgt. Brent De Natly, CHP.
The driver was arrested for driving under the influence. A person in one of the other vehicles was taken to a Modesto hospital with moderate injuries.