17-year-old identified as victim in collision near Atwater

June 21, 2013 

— A person who was killed late last week in a Highway 99 crash near Atwater has been identified by the Merced County coroner's office as 17-year-old Edson Zavala.

California Highway Patrol officers said Zavala was driving a 2001 Suzuki Esteem north on Applegate Road near Atwater Jordan Road when he approached a slower-moving car about 4 p.m. Thursday.

In an apparent move to pass the car, the CHP said, he abruptly moved into the left lane and into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer rig, which was hauling milk.

The collision sent the Suzuki into a spin. The big rig, driven by John Matos, 42, of Turlock, swerved off the highway. It hit an almond tree and a fence before coming to a stop, but the driver wasn't hurt.

Zavala, the Suzuki's driver, was pronounced dead at the scene.

His passengers, Daniel Trujillo, 14, of Atwater; Ernesto Mora, 17, of Atwater; Gustine Cardenas, age and hometown unknown; and Guadalupe Mora, 18, of Atwater, suffered moderate to major injuries. They were taken to hospitals in Modesto.

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