Man killed, 5-year-old injured in wreck near Modesto park

A pickup truck traveling northbound on McGuire Drive went off the roadway and into Sonoma Park, killing the driver and leaving his 5-year-old son critically injured.
A pickup truck traveling northbound on McGuire Drive went off the roadway and into Sonoma Park, killing the driver and leaving his 5-year-old son critically injured. The Modesto Bee

A man was killed and his son critically injured when the pickup they were in lost control, hit a curb and flew into a tree before coming to rest on its roof in a playground about 8:10 this morning, authorities said.

The Modesto Police Department has identified the man as 39-year-old Leland Leon Davis of Modesto.

His 5-year-old son was removed from the pickup in six minutes and taken to Memorial Medical Center. The boy suffered major internal injuries and a broken leg and later was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, police said. He was in fair condition tonight, a hospital spokesman said.

It took longer for emergency crews to remove Davis from the pickup, Modesto Police Sgt. Brian Findlen said. He was pronounced dead in the truck.

Authorities still are trying to determine what caused the crash. The posted speed limit in the area is 25 mph.

Several of his friends said they believe Davis had a seizure. Pam Beraz, who said Davis was her best friend, said he started having seizures after suffering a head injury a few years ago.

Witnesses told police the white Toyota truck was speeding north on McGuire Drive near Oakdale Road and East Orangeburg Avenue when it veered off the road.

The pickup flew 10 to 20 feet into the tree before coming to rest near the playground in the park. There were several children in the playground, but none were injured, police said.

Before police arrived, neighbors rushed to the scene of the crash to see if they could help.

Joel Martin, 26, of Modesto was in bed about 8 a.m. He had just called in sick to work and was thinking about making a doctor’s appointment.

Martin's bedroom window faces east onto McGuire. He heard a vehicle coming down his street, its engine getting louder and louder as it accelerated toward a cul-de-sac next to Sonoma Park.

"Once it had passed my house, I expected to hear brakes and tires squealing," he said. "Instead I heard more acceleration. I heard the first thud and I heard a loud bang. I grabbed a pair of pants and ran outside."

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Martin, followed closely by his girlfriend, Danyelle Rhoy, saw smoke coming from the park when they went outside. They ran over to the truck, which was "pretty smashed up."

"I didn't hear anything at first. Then we heard a child crying,' he said. The roof of the truck had been pushed down, so Martin and Rhoy couldn't see the little boy in the back seat. The boy was crying out for his dad. He said he was on the way to school. After a few minutes, Rhoy was able to calm the child down.

"He was quiet, but when my girlfriend would ask him a question he was responding. He said his name was Logan, how old he was, that his favorite color was yellow,' he said.

A neighbor on the other side of the truck was able to reach inside, "and Logan found his hand," Martin said.

Martin and the others started calling into the front seat to see if they could get a response.

"Hello, can you hear us?" They shouted. "Are you OK?"

But when Martin looked in front, it was clear the driver was not all right. The dashboard and steering column had been pushed into the driver’s seat area. The windshield was covered with blood. The neighbors turned their attention to keeping Logan calm.

When emergency workers pulled the boy out, he had a large red bruise on his forehead and bruising on his legs, Martin said.

"It's amazing that the boy's alive at all. That truck was so smashed in the back," he said. "At this point, I'm glad Logan survived. I hope that he's able to pull through and that he has some family in the area."

Davis' relatives in Modesto declined to comment, but a cousin of his e-mailed The Bee when she read about the accident online.

"I will tell you he is/was a wonderful person - always making us laugh,' wrote Linda Fields of Spokane, who said she had not been in touch with her cousin for several years. "I'm sure something went wrong - I can't believe he would have been driving recklessly with his son in the truck. Not Leland."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at or 578-2235.

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