A 19-year-old Merced man, on the run from law enforcement since February, died early Thursday in a head-on collision on Highway 59 south of Merced, about 20 minutes after he apparently carjacked a vehicle during another crash.
The teenager was identified by the Merced County Coroner’s Office as Robert Xayarath.
The first collision was reported at 4:08 a.m. on Highway 59 around Cone Avenue when a purple Honda Civic crashed into the rear of a Mitsubishi box truck. The Honda apparently caught fire and both drivers got out of their vehicles, the California Highway Patrol said.
“The (Mitsubishi) driver exited to check on (the teenager) and put out the fire,” Officer Moises Onsurez said.
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However, Xayarath then climbed into the Mitsubishi and took off south on Highway 59, Onsurez said.
About 20 minutes later, around 4:27 a.m., the box truck was still heading south in the area of McNamara Road when, for an unknown reason, the vehicle went into the northbound traffic lane. The Mitsubishi collided head-on with an oncoming tractor-trailer rig driven by 43-year-old Ediberto Camacho of Madera, the CHP said.
The big rig burst into flames and stalled, blocking both lanes of traffic, the CHP said. The Mitsubishi overturned onto the right shoulder.
Xayarath was pronounced dead at the scene, investigators said. Camacho suffered unspecified minor injuries and was taken to Mercy Medical Center Merced for treatment, Onsurez said.
It was unclear what caused the Mitsubishi to move into the other lane. Investigators declined to speculate.
The big rig was hauling onions, and debris from the crash forced officers to close the highway for more than seven hours while emergency responders extinguished the flames and cleaned up the scene.
Judge Jeanne Schechter issued a $100,000 felony warrant Feb. 11 for Xayarath’s arrest on a probation violation after he failed to appear in court, according to Merced Superior Court records.
Xayarath pleaded guilty Oct. 31 to a felony assault charge. He was ordered to serve three years’ probation and 154 days in jail, court records show.