Driver killed in crash, vehicle fire on Hwy 101 in Santa Maria

Posted at 12:09 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 15:09:47-04

Emergency crews responded to a deadly crash and vehicle fire on Highway 101 in Santa Maria on Friday.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the incident was first reported at about 11:40 a.m. in the southbound lanes.

Authorities say a reckless driver struck the Santa Maria River bridge and continued on, eventually crashing into a tree along the side of the highway near Main Street. The pickup truck was engulfed in flames and the driver was killed.

CHP officers were first on the scene and tried to use fire extinguishers to put out the flames before firefighters arrived. One officer tried to pull the man out of the vehicle, but the smoke was too thick.

It’s unclear whether the man died on impact or as a result of the fire.

KSBY viewer Debbie Nygren says, before the fire, the pickup hit or sideswiped several cars. Nygren also said she witnessed the driver hitting his truck into the median and guardrails.

"It was the scariest ordeal of my life!" Nygren said.

Investigators say they don’t know at this time whether the crash was the result of drugs or alcohol, a medical emergency, or some other cause.

The man’s name has not yet been released.

The southbound Main Street offramp was closed to traffic for about an hour.

Outside activities at Fesler Junior High School were limited since the crash occurred across the street from the school’s field.