Drivers recall helping victims trapped in Cholame “Y” wreckage

Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 06, 2018

A deadly multi-car crash closed a portion of Highway 46 and Highway 41 Friday morning.  The crash happened a quarter-mile west of the intersection of those two highways, stranding drivers along the road for hours.  

Just before 6 a.m. Friday, California Highway Patrol’s Templeton Division responded to the crash involving four cars.

"For unknown reasons, the driver of the Chevy Cruze drifted into the westbound lane and the Chevy Cruze and the Nissan Versa struck each other," explained Officer Patrick Seebart, Public Information Officer for the Templeton CHP Division. 

That was only the first collision.

"The second collision was the head-on collision between the van and the Chevy Cruze both of those drivers died as a result of their injuries," Seebart explained. "The next collision was the Nissan Versa that went into the eastbound lane was struck by the eastbound vehicle."

Drivers like Scott Penner and Eberg Garyar, coworkers who drive Highway 46 daily, drove up on the crash just moments after the impacts occurred. Penner described the scene as "raining car parts," with victims pinned tightly inside the crumpled vehicles. 

Garyar said he and Penner quickly jumped out of their truck and began working to remove the trapped people from the wreckage and assisting the injured. Garyar said the victims were screaming for help, a sound he says he won’t soon forget.

Penner said the first victim he found had already passed away.  Another victim he helped free from the mangled cars was airlifted to a local hospital.  He said after seeing Friday’s accident, and many before it, the nickname of Blood Alley is only reinforced.

The CHP identified those killed in the crash as Catherine Ann Fox, 60, of Paso Robles and Jesus Ontiveros, 45, of Tulare.

In total, Officer Seebart said there were "nine injuries, two fatalities, and a non-injury" among the four cars involved. But even to him and other CHP officers responding to the scene, it was a shock.  

"It’s a pretty big accident for our area. We don’t get a lot like this, thank goodness," he said.

Officer Seebart said crash investigators will interview those involved in the incident and compare their statements to data collected from the scene to reconstruct what exactly happened.  As crews cleaned up the road, officers took measurements of skid marks and other markings left by the cars involved. 

Highway 46 was closed for about four hours, leaving drivers stranded or forced to backtrack. Once reopened, Officer Seebart had one thing to say, "Remind everybody please drive carefully out there."  

To find out about the future of construction at the Cholame "Y" intersection, click here.