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Wrong-way pickup hits van on Highway 99

The driver of a compact pickup that collided head-on with a van while traveling the wrong way on Highway 99 north of Merced was listed in critical condition in a Modesto hospital, a day after the accident north of Franklin Road.

Amelia Coronado, 40, of Merced, was being treated in the intensive care unit of Modesto's Memorial Medical Center on Wednesday where she was airlifted after the 9:35 p.m. accident Tuesday on southbound lanes of the highway.

Coronado's 1991 Mazda B2200 pickup collided with a 2001 Chevrolet van driven by Patricia York, 58, of Gustine. York was listed in fair condition Wednesday at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. Her passenger, Sheila York, 35, of Gustine, also received moderate injuries.

Officer Shane Ferriera, California Highway Patrol spokesman, said drunken driving does not appear to be a factor. Officers were trying to intercept the wrong-way driver minutes before the crash.

Ferriera said the accident remains under investigation. No information was available why Coronado was going northbound in the southbound lanes or how long she had been driving the wrong way.

Sgt. Mike Green said Coronado's pickup was straddling slow and fast lanes of Highway 99 when she encountered the York van and both swerved to the right. The pickup was wedged tight against a culvert bridge railing, its cab mangled and frame twisted by the impact. York's van ended up on its left side, its front end demolished.

Both Coronado and York were pinned in the wreckage and had to be extricated by Jaws of Life rescue tools. Two medical evacuation helicopters transported the victims to the Modesto hospitals after initial treatment by Riggs Ambulance Service personnel.

CHP officers said Coronado had been traveling at unknown speed. All three were wearing safety equipment. Southbound Highway 99 traffic was backed up to Atwater for nearly two hours while the victims were being treated and the wreckage removed.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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