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CHP changes theory, says woman was not driving wrong way in crash

Amelia Coronado, 40, of Merced, clings to life in a Modesto hospital where she was airlifted after a Feb. 26 head-on crash involving a wrong-way driver on Highway 99 north of Franklin Road in the Merced area.

Coronado was listed as the driver headed northbound in the southbound lanes but California Highway Patrol officers have corrected the initial accident report. Patricia York, 58, of Gustine was the wrong-way driver whose 2001 Chevy sport-utility vehicle collided with Coronado's Mazda B2200 pickup.

Coronado's sister, Emily Silveira of Newman, said her sister remains in critical condition at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto where she was taken after the 9:35 p.m. accident.

Silveira said Coronado, who has lived in Merced for 23 years, has multiple broken bones, including her pelvis and both femurs. She said her condition is improving little by little.

"Two weeks ago we didn't think she would make it," Silveira said. "She can squeeze your hand and knows I'm there. It's an awesome improvement; to us it's a miracle."

Officer Shane Ferriera, CHP spokesman, said the investigating officer at first listed Coronado as the wrong-way driver. However, after analyzing physical evidence, checking the vehicles' damage and examining witnesses' statements, it was determined York's van, not Coronado's truck, was headed the wrong way on the highway.

Coronado, who had a home-cleaning business in Merced, was pinned in the pickup and had to be extricated with the Jaws of Life rescue tool. The pickup body, wedged against a guardrail at the right edge of the highway, was twisted by the impact of the crash and the front end and cab were mangled in the crash.

"At first glance it seemed like it happened that way," Ferriera said. "By going back through the dispatchers' log and interviewing independent witnesses, it was determined the van was going the wrong way. Two of the three accident victims were unable to give statements at first."

Marci White, Coronado's former sister-in-law and a close family friend, said Coronado has been through three major surgeries, including one lasting more than eight hours. Coronado has a 7-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter.

"She's a strong person," White said. "We are hoping for the best. Right now we are just thankful for every day she is with us. We are taking one day at a time because it is all we can do."

White said Coronado is a wonderful person, a good mom and a very hard worker.

CHP officers said York had been traveling northbound in the southbound lanes at an unknown speed when she collided headon with the Mazda pickup traveling southbound. Patrol officers had been trying to intercept a wrong-way driver before the accident happened. Both drivers were pinned in their vehicles and were airlifted to Modesto hospitals with major injuries.

Ferriera said investigation into the accident is continuing and the accident report is still in the review process.

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

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