One person was killed and four injured when a car apparently trying to pass another vehicle crashed head-on into a big rig near Atwater on Thursday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol reported.
According to reports, a male, whose name and age were not released pending positive identification, was driving a 2001 Suzuki Esteem north on Applegate Road near Atwater Jordan Road when he approached a slower-moving car about 4 p.m. In an apparent move to pass the car, the driver moved abruptly into the left lane and into the path of a tractor-trailer hauling milk driven south by John Matos, 42, of Turlock.
The collision sent the Suzuki into a spin and the tractor-trailer off the road into an almond tree and a fence. A man driving behind the Suzuki described the sound of the collision as "almost like an explosion."
The witness, who did not want his name published, said he could see the big rig from his car behind the Suzuki.
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"They tried to pass, but there was just not enough time for them to do it," he said. He and his sons ran to the car to try to help those inside while another passerby called 911. He described all those inside the car as teenagers.
The Suzuki driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Passengers Daniel Trujillo, 14, of Atwater, Ernesto Mora, 17, of Atwater, Gustine Cardenas, age and hometown unknown, and Guadalupe Mora, 18, of Atwater suffered moderate to major injuries and were taken to hospitals in Modesto.
Matos was not hurt. The road was closed for more than three hours while officers investigated.