MERCED COUNTY — Two women were killed and a third was injured when the pickup in which they were riding struck a tree Friday morning on River Road near Newman, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Officers responded to a call about 8:46 a.m. that a vehicle had crashed into a tree. The 1996 red Dodge 1500 pickup was traveling west on River Road, east of Kelley Road, when the crash occurred.
For unknown reasons, the pickup went off the road, according to officer Jason Schoonhoven of the Atwater CHP office. The pickup hit a tree on the north side of the road, causing damage to the left side of the vehicle. The pickup caught fire shortly afterward, so Cal Fire and emergency personnel were sent to the scene.
The pickup's engine and part of the front cabin caught fire, but the blaze didn't spread to the rest of the vehicle, Schoonhoven said.
The driver and front seat passenger were confirmed dead at the scene. The driver was 22-year-old Blanca Juarez Flores. No hometown was given. According to the Merced County coroner's office, the woman in the front passenger seat was thrown from the vehicle. Her identity hadn't been determined Friday.
A woman in the left rear passenger seat was airlifted to a Modesto area hospital. Her condition was unknown, but officers on the scene said her injuries didn't appear to be life-threatening.