Unsafe passing led to a fatal accident that in turn caused a fire and backed up traffic on Highway 108 Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
The accident was reported at 2:34 p.m. near Willms Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. The location is just west of Lovers’ Leap.
A 22-year-old man driving a Hyundai Accent was driving eastbound on Highway 108 passing cars at unsafe speeds, CHP officer Chuck Leon said.
A witness, who had just been passed by the Accent, told officers he saw the car try to pass a Cadillac, crossing double yellow lines on a curve. The car collided head-on with a Ford Ranger, driven by an 81-year-old man. Authorities did not release the names of those involved in the accident.
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Both vehicles ended up on the westbound shoulder. The Ranger then caught fire.
A trucker going by stopped and used a pry bar and fire extinguisher from his truck to pull the driver out of the truck. A registered nurse also stopped and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but the man was declared dead, Leon said. The driver of the Hyuandi and a female passenger in his car were taken to Modesto hospitals with serious injuries, as was a passenger in the Ranger, whom Leon described as an older man.
The trucker who pulled the driver from the Ranger suffered burns to his arms. Leon did not have his name but said the man is in his 40s.
The fire from the Ranger spread to a nearby field, where it consumed an acre before it was extinguished.
Highway 108 was closed in both directions for more than an hour, when officers opened a single lane to one-way traffic. Cars backed up in both directions for several miles.