A wrong-way driver caused a six-vehicle smashup on Highway 99 Saturday night that sent seven people to the hospital and closed the northbound lanes for about two hours.
The California Highway Patrol said the wrong-way driver was under the influence of alcohol as he drove south in the northbound lanes. His 2001 Chevrolet Silverado hit an oncoming 2003 Lexus and rolled several times, striking several other vehicles.
Six vehicles with 17 people were involved in the 10:48 p.m. accident about a half-mile north of where Taylor Road crosses underneath the highway, said CHP officer J.B. Peregoy.
He said the suspected DUI and wrong-way driver was taken by helicopter to the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento.
That driver’s injuries include burns. Emergency workers had to free him from his burning pickup truck. The wrong-way driver did not have any passengers, Peregoy said.
Peregoy said Ceres resident Fernando Martinez, 30, was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and felony driving the wrong way and causing injuries on a controlled roadway.
The other injured people were taken to Stanislaus County hospitals. Peregoy said the injured are expected to recover.
The northbound lanes were closed until about 1 a.m. The CHP detoured northbound traffic around the wreck.
The injured included two Modesto drivers: Brian Miller, 42, and Victoria Mendoza, 36. The other drivers were from the Bay Area and Washington state.
Peregoy said officers believe the wrong-way driver entered the northbound lanes by entering the highway at an exit. It’s not clear how long the Chevrolet Silverado had been driving south before striking the northbound Lexus.