A 17-year-old boy driving east on Avenue 12 east of Road 34 1/2 was killed Saturday afternoon when he lost control of his 2000 Audi A3 about 4:30, crossed the center line and slammed head-on into another car with two adults and three children, according to The California Highway Patrol.
The 17-year-old, identified by the coroner’s office as Troyce Raqueno of Madera, was a senior at Madera High School and due to graduate this year. Raqueno was pronounced dead at the scene. His family had reportedly just recently moved to the Madera Ranchos area.
Also killed was a back-seat passenger in the westbound Toyota 4-Runner hit by Raqueno,11-year-old Christian Lopez, also of Madera. Lopez was reportedly a student at Washington Elementary School.
His mother, Veronica Lopez, and the 49-year-old male driver, reportedly a family friend, and two other minor children were seriously injured and taken to Community Regional Medical Center and Valley Children’s Hospital, respectively.
Witnesses told police the black Audi was driving at between 55 and 60 mph, a speed not uncommon for the area, but said it appeared the driver of the other car — the Toyota — did not have time to even react much less move out of the way of the Audi as it crashed into them. The combined force of the impact, over a 100 mph, badly mangled the cars, with firefighters using the Jaws of Life to cut the occupants out of both cars.
A Life Flight helicopter landed to take the male driver of the Toyota directly to CRMC, due to the extent of his injuries.
The area of Avenue 12 was closed for about 3 1/2 hours as emergency crews from Madera and Fresno worked to treat and transport the injured survivors, and investigate the collision.
Family members, and high school friends who knew Raqueno or lived nearby showed up at the crash scene, near Liberty High School. Some compared the scene to a real life “Every 15 Minutes” traffic safety production, the staged traffic-collision event with EMS, CHP and local law enforcement performed at local high schools to illustrate just how often preventable tragedies behind the wheel can happen.
Officers said it is not known why Raqueno would have allowed his car to enter the westbound lane and are investigating all factors of the fatal collision — including the possibilities of distracted driving and fatigue. Drugs or alcohol do not appear to be a factor in the collision, but toxicology reports are pending, they said.
April is also Distracted Driving Enforcement and Education Month, according to The California Highway Patrol.
The California Office of Traffic Safety, in a recent educational campaign says that using a cell phone increases your risk of a collision by three times and the youngest and most inexperienced drivers are most at risk when driving distracted.
Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or hands off the steering wheel — especially when texting or using a phone.
Any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a cell phone for any reason.
The campaign emphasizes that all functions of a phone can be distracting: using an app, shuffling through music or playing videos, looking at social media, maps or photos. They are all dangerous and illegal when you are driving, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, and the safest thing drivers can do is put down the phone and just drive.