1-year-old left in critical condition
A driver, alleged to be under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, killed a man and a woman in their 20s and critically injured their one-year-old daughter in a head-on collision on Avenue 9 west of Road 30, according to The California Highway Patrol.
The crash happened in daylight about 6 p.m. Thursday, as 45-year-old Alvaro Martinez, reportedly of Fresno, was eastbound on Avenue 9 at an unknown speed and lost control of a 1993 Acura sedan, crossed into the westbound lane and struck a 2001 Suzuki SUV head on.
Open alcohol was found in the Acura and the smell of marijuana was intense in the car, according to the CHP. A large amount of recently harvested but unprocessed marijuana plant leaves and buds were also reportedly found in the car. Martinez remains in Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries.
Killed were the young parents, Frankie Jose Rodriguez, 26, and Jessica Myers, 24, of Chowchilla. Myers father, Matt Myers, is a longtime volunteer firefighter with the city of Chowchilla according to CalFire. The couple's one-year-old daughter, Ellie Rodriguez, survived, but remains in critical condition. A Pistoresi Ambulance just passing through the area came upon the crash shortly after it happened, and was able to stabilize the child and rush her to the nearby Valley Children's Hospital.
Rodriguez and Myers were reportedly not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, according to the CHP and the child's car seat was reportedly not properly installed. The use of seat belts could have also made a difference, they said. Firefighters used the Jaws of Life cutting tool to remove the victims from the vehicles.
Martinez, still hospitalized, has been placed under arrest and faces two counts of gross felony vehicular homicide, among other charges, if he survives. Martinez may have also not been licensed to drive.
Area residents and emergency personnel say the two-lane Avenue 9 is narrow with only dirt shoulders and is dangerous, with a higher-than-average number of crashes and fatalities. The once-rural road is also experiencing higher than normal traffic, they say, because of construction and detours to the north on Avenue 15, traffic delays on Avenue 12 and an increase in local residential population.
Avenue 9 was closed for several hours as emergency crews worked to investigate and clear the scene.
The collision remains under investigation.