A 40-year-old Atwater man is dead after a head-on crash with a big rig Tuesday on Highway 140 west of Hull Road, the California Highway Patrol reported.
A woman also received major injuries from the crash. The coroner's office hasn't released the name of the man who was killed, pending notification of his family or next-of-kin.
The incident was reported after 11:30 a.m. just outside Atwater. The 40-year-old man was driving a 1986 Nissan pickup truck westbound at an unknown speed on Highway 140, according to Officer John Patterson, CHP spokesman.
Meanwhile, 53-year-old Yolanda Charlton of Merced was driving a 2002 Ford Taurus westbound on Highway 140 at an unknown distance behind the pickup.
At the same time, 40-year-old Arestides Fontes of Merced was driving the big rig pulling a double trailer eastbound on Highway 140 at about 53-55 mph.
For unknown reasons, the driver of the Nissan turned abruptly into the eastbound lane into the path of the big rig. The big rig and the Nissan collided head-on.
Patterson said the driver of the Nissan was ejected, his car overturning onto the east shoulder and coming to a rest in an irrigation canal. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The big rig skidded and overturned onto its right side across both lanes of Highway 140.
While the big rig was sliding across the highway, the Taurus driven by Charlton crashed into the front of the big rig. The Taurus came to a rest on the east shoulder of Highway 140, and Charlton was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto with major injuries.
Fontes suffered minor injuries and said he'd seek his own aid.
The big rig spilled compost and diesel fuel on the highway, which was closed until 5:10 p.m.
Patterson said it's unknown whether DUI was a factor in the crash. The Merced County Sheriff's Department is assisting the CHP with the investigation.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.