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3 crashes result in 5 deaths

Three separate traffic collisions over the weekend claimed five lives on Madera roadways, with high speed and driving under the influence being a factor in at least one of them, according to the California Highway Patrol.


A driver alleged to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, 23-year-old Hayden Lambert of Madera, was killed Saturday night just before 8 p.m., when he allowed his westbound 2015 Honda Civic to cross over the center line of State Route 145, just west of SR 41 and travel directly into the path of eastbound traffic.


CHP Sgt. Lincoln McKenna said speed was also factor in the fatal crash.


“The approximate speed was 70 mph when (Lambert) allowed his car to drift into oncoming traffic, sideswiped the first vehicle and then went head on into the second car. Toxicology reports are pending,” McKenna said.


Lambert first sideswiped a 2016 GMC pickup truck, and then spun head on into a 2004 Honda Accord, killing that driver, 60-year-old Josie Marquez and her right rear passenger, 60-year-old Jessie Gonzales both from Firebaugh. A third passenger, an unidentified 62-year-old woman also from Firebaugh, was taken to Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries. The driver of the pickup truck, a 55-year-old woman from Los Banos declined medical treatment at the scene.


Fire crews worked for over an hour to cut the victims and the lone survivor from the badly mangled cars. Traffic was detoured around the crash scene for at least two hours. Shaken witnesses described the scene as horrific.


A motorcyclist, Emmitt Fowler, 35, of Fresno, was struck and killed Saturday about 5 p.m. at the intersection of Avenue 15 and State Route 41 when he failed to yield the right of way to another vehicle. Witnesses told CHP that Fowler was eastbound on Avenue 15 when he briefly stopped at the stop sign and then pulled directly out in front of a southbound car moving at 55 mph. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, a 78-year-old woman from Coarsegold, was not injured.


An unidentified woman in her 30s was struck and killed by a car as she was reportedly walking north on Road 25 near Avenue 10 Sunday night about 7 p.m. Officers said it appeared the woman was walking in the middle of the southbound traffic lane, in the dark, at the time of the incident. The driver was not injured and stopped at the scene. The incident is under investigation and toxicology reports on the victim are pending, according to McKenna.


McKenna said the high number of traffic fatalities over the weekend was unusual.


“More drivers need to slow down and drive defensively.”  McKenna said. “And be aware of what’s going on around them, especially now with inclement (winter) weather and fog more likely.”