Fatal Merced County crash victims identified, deputies say

The two victims who died in a motorcycle collision Friday in Merced County were identified by authorities as 71-year-old Merced resident Joseph Dias and 16-year-old Gwenevieve Ophelia Rubis of Hawaii.

Dias was riding a 2002 Harley Davidson motorcycle with the teen as his passenger south on Hornitos Road, north of Robinson Road, as it tried to pass a 2014 Toyota RAV4 being driven by 61-year-old Christine Marie Vanloon of Merced, according to California Highway Patrol.

While attempting the pass, Dias’ motorcycle side swiped a 2013 Chevrolet pickup truck and utility trailer, which was being driven the opposite direction by 34-year-old Denair resident Lewis Conway Prock, according to the CHP.

The motorcycle traveled back across the double yellow striped street marker into the southbound lane where it collided with the Toyota, officials said.

Dias and Rubis were ejected from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the CHP. No other injuries were reported.

The identities of Dias and Rubis, who was visiting from Hawaii, were released by the Merced County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office Monday.

This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Rubis’ name, and to note Dias was a Merced resident. The initial information was provided by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.

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Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.