Two people died and two children were airlifted to nearby hospitals after a pickup truck collided with a big rig Friday in the Planada area.
Authorities wouldn't confirm that there were two fatalities, but Merced County coroner's office personnel were dispatched to the scene and removed two bodies.
The accident was reported about 11:45 a.m. at Plainsburg Road and Buchanan Hollow Road, said officer Noe Lomeli of the California Highway Patrol.
The deceased were believed to be the children's parents, he said. The condition of the kids and the extent of their injuries wasn't given.
The 1999 Peterbilt was traveling west on Buchanan Hollow Road, Lomeli said. According to witnesses, the Chevrolet pickup truck was going south on Plainsburg Road.
Vehicles traveling on Buchanan Hollow Road must yield for a stop sign, Lomeli said. Motorists on Plainsburg Road don't have to stop.
Both vehicles were traveling at an unknown speed, he said. The speed limit on both roads is 55 mph.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, Lomeli said.
The front portion of the pickup truck was lodged under one of the big rig's trailers. The victims, whose names haven't been released, were pinned inside the damaged pickup.
Emergency crews were dispatched to the scene and had to cut off the top of the pickup's cab to reach those trapped in the wreck.
The bodies were in the pickup when a tow truck was brought in to pull the crumpled vehicle from under the trailer. As the pickup was being pulled out, its battery cables began to spark and ignited oil on the road. Flames nearly engulfed the big rig, but firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.
The bodies were then removed from the pickup.
The driver of the big rig, whose name wasn't released, was walking around the crash scene and appeared uninjured. He declined to comment, but seemed distraught as he talked on his phone.
Several nearby school administrators went to the scene because they heard that there were two youths involved in the accident.
Rick Martinez, football coach at Le Grand High School, said he got a text message from a family member letting him know about the accident. "We are out of school and it's graduation tonight," he said.
The school officials weren't able to determine if the injured kids were students because their identities weren't being released.
The California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and the Merced County Sheriff's Department responded to the accident.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.