A large Ralphs Grocery semi truck and trailer toppled off Highway 99 and turned upside down into an embankment early Saturday morning near G Street.
It spilled about 80 to 100 gallons of diesel fuel around the accident site, causing crews to close the highway's southbound lane at G Street well into the afternoon.
Bradley Dawe, 45, of Rocklin, was driving the big rig southbound on Highway 99 in the right lane at about 5:30 a.m. when he was hit by a 1994 Toyota Camry, said Shane Ferriera, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
Gerald Brown, 20, of Merced, was driving the Toyota at about 65 miles per hour in the far left lane when he drifted into the center divider, hit the guardrail, lost control and drove into the right lane. He hit the left front end of the truck, pushing it into the G Street overpass guardrail, Ferriera said.
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The truck turned upside down on the side of the freeway, with the trailer on top of the cab. Dawe was stuck inside the truck as diesel fuel spilled out of it, said Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten.
It took rescue crews about 20 minutes to get him out, and he was taken Mercy Medical Center to be treated for moderate injuries, he said.
Brown received minor injuries, some bumps and bruises.
"The drivers were fortunate it wasn't worse," Ferriera said.
Two engines and a truck -- about 14 people -- responded to the call, including Cal Trans to fix the guard rail and a clean up crew from Fresno for the diesel spill.
The scene was cleared by about 1 p.m., Mitten said.
The accident is still under investigation, and the CHP is still unsure why Brown drifted into the center divider.
Reporter Dhyana Levey can be reached at (209) 385-2472 or firstname.lastname@example.org