DUI driver believed responsible for one death, several injuries
A Madera man is dead and several other people injured after a wrong-way driver believed to be drunk triggered an eight-car pileup on State Route 99 early Thursday.
The driver of a Ford was heading north in the southbound lanes of 99, according to the highway patrol. He triggered a chain-reaction of collisions that resulted in eight vehicles, including two big rigs, becoming tangled on the highway.
The multiple-car collision with multiple pin-ins was the result of the Ford Explorer colliding head-on with a Ford Taurus. Officers said that as a result of trying to avoid the original crash, several other vehicles collided in the same general vicinity.
A Madera man, 20-year-old Joseph Paul Rodriguez, was driving the Taurus, and was killed in the crash.
The driver of the Ford, a man from Santa Maria, suffered major injuries, and was arrested, according to the CHP. Officers believe he was intoxicated at the time of the collision.
A 27-year-old man from Wasco driving a GMC suffered moderate injuries, a 53-year-old woman from Knoxville, Tenn. suffered minor injuries, a woman in a separate car who was not identified as of press time suffered major injuries, a 43-year-old man from Fresno was uninjured, a 57-year-old man from Dinuba in a Toyota suffered major injuries, and a 20-year-old man escaped injury while his 18-year-old passenger, both in a Toyota, suffered minor injuries.
Victims were transported to a local hospital for treatment. Traffic was back up for about five miles. Because the scene spanned about 300 yards of 99, Caltrans diverted southbound cars off of 99 at Avenue 18 1/2, south on Road 23, and back up Avenue 17 where travelers continued south on 99. The roadway was opened shortly after 11 a.m.
While patchy fog was reported, it is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.
Because of multiple witnesses and accounts of what happened, the highway patrol called in the Central Division Major Accident Investigation Team to handle the investigation.