Jan 3, 2023
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has confirmed that seven children and two adult drivers were killed in a head-on collision that took place New Year’s Day on State Route 33 between Avenal and Coalinga. The fatal Central California crash occurred at approximately 8 p.m., according to the Fresno County Coroner’s Office and CHP.
The children, reportedly between six and 15 years old, were part of two related families. While traveling in a 2007 Ford F-150 pickup truck, the group was suddenly struck, head-on, by a Dodge Journey. The Dodge Journey, driven by an unidentified 28-year-old man, was traveling southbound along the highway when it careened towards the dirt shoulder for an unexplained reason, police officials said. According to police, the driver suddenly overcorrected upon reaching the shoulder, and then swerved into the oncoming lane, striking the Ford pickup.
The Ford, driven by an unidentified woman, burst into flames. The Dodge came to a sudden stop, reportedly straddling both lanes of the highway following the crash, according to police officials. All eight individuals inside the Ford pickup, seven of which were children, perished in the fire.
The New York Times reported that Highway Patrol Captain Kevin Clays confirmed the pickup was only equipped with six seatbelts. Clays said the first responders on the scene had subsequently been offered professional counseling due to the graphic nature of the crash.
“It’s tragic for the community,” Clays said. “It’s tragic for our officers that respond to these incidents.”
The driver of the Dodge was identified as Daniel Luna of Avenal, California. The coroner’s office is reportedly still working on identifying the victims in the Ford.
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is reportedly joining the investigation of the fatal New Year’s Day car accident. The NTSB said Tuesday it will work with the California Highway Patrol in the ongoing investigation.
The scene of the crash was approximately 50 miles southwest of Fresno.
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