Two people suffered major injuries Thursday in a crash on Highway 99 in Merced involving six vehicles, including two big rigs, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Pavitarpal Singh, 22, of Fresno, suffered unspecified major injuries and was airlifted to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. David Terry, 73, of Merced, also suffered unspecified major injuries and was taken by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, the CHP said.
Updates on their conditions were not available, but their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Officer Jason Schoonhoven said.
Three other people complained of pain but were not hospitalized, and another driver involved was not injured.
Schoonhoven said three other vehicles were involved in the crash, including a 2011 Ford F-150 driven by Gary Sullivan, 61, of Modesto, but exactly what occurred remained unclear Thursday evening. Sullivan suffered minor injuries and declined medical treatment at the scene.
“It’s still under investigation,” Schoonhoven said, “and a lot of our information may change as it unfolds.”
Four of the six vehicles involved sustained major damage and were towed from the crash scene.
The collision was reported at 10:47 a.m., according to the CHP.
One of the big rigs smashed into the center divide guardrail, causing major damage. The rear of its trailer obstructed traffic in the fast lane. Traffic was backed up to R Street for several hours and was stop-and-go after the CHP reopened the slow lane.
The CHP said road construction under way in the area of the crash may have been a factor in the collision.
Alfonso Lesesne III, 38, of Kentucky, was the driver of a black 2014 Kenworth big rig and “failed to observe the traffic slowing or stopping” ahead of his vehicle. The front of Lesesne’s truck hit Singh’s 1998 gold-colored Saturn, the CHP said, causing a chain reaction of collisions.
Lesesne’s truck then struck the rear of a 2000 Chevrolet van, and the big rig then traveled out of control into the median and struck the metal guardrail, the CHP said.
Northbound traffic was stopped on Highway 99 at V Street. Vehicles were diverted onto V Street and over to 16th Street, snarling traffic for several blocks on city streets.
Neither drugs nor alcohol appear to have been factors, the CHP said.
One lane of northbound Highway 99 was reopened about 1 p.m., but the fast lane remained closed for several hours as Caltrans workers repaired a guardrail on the center divide.
Schoonhoven said at least one of the drivers involved may not have been paying attention to the slower traffic created by the road construction.
“This is a classic example of why we stress that drivers pay attention through construction areas,” Schoonhoven said. “There was plenty of signage on the road indicating drivers should slow down and it’s important that all motorists take precautions through those areas.”