One man was killed and two other suffered major injuries Monday night just outside Delhi when a suspected drunken driver drove the wrong way on Highway 99 and slammed into two cars before his own vehicle overturned and burst into flames, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The victim was identified Tuesday morning by the Merced County Coroner’s Office as 31-year-old Jimmy Guerrero of Delhi.
Guerrero was a passenger in a 2016 Toyota Camry driven by Evan Garcia, 35, also of Delhi, according to CHP Officer Eric Zuniga.
Garcia, who later admitted to “consuming several alcoholic beverages before the crash,” was spotted traveling the wrong way in the southbound lane of Highway 99 just after 11:30 p.m. Two CHP officers who were monitoring a Caltrans road project in the area noticed the Camry enter the wrong traffic lane.
The driver of the Camry, later identified by investigators as Garcia, headed north in the southbound lanes of traffic for several miles before he crashed head-on into a 2017 Toyota Corolla driven by Kou Xiong, 30, of Winton. The Corolla overturned and Xiong suffered major internal injuries and was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, Zuniga said.
Garcia’s car continued to move across both lanes of traffic and slammed into a second car, a 2012 Honda Civic driven by Guillermo Benitez, 33, of Livingston. Benitez suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, officers said.
Following the second collision, Garcia’s car overturned on the western shoulder of the Shanks Road off-ramp and burst into flames. CHP officers managed to get Garcia out of the car and tried to rescue the passenger, but the fire spread too quickly and the passenger was trapped inside, authorities said.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Garcia suffered major internal injuries and also was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
“He will be booked upon his release on several felony charges,” Zuniga told the Sun-Star, including felony drunken driving causing death and possibly others. Garcia’s suspected blood-alcohol content level was not available Tuesday.
Zuniga said while Garcia already admitted to drinking before the crash, officers still are working to trace his steps and whereabouts in the hours leading up to the collision.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the California Highway Patrol at 209-356-6600.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482