Merced man crashes into buffalo

The story of car vs. buffaloes took another turn Saturday when the California Highway Patrol reported that it was the car of a Modesto man that hit the wayward animals first.

Gerardo Juarez's 1999 beige Chevrolet Silverado pickup struck the two buffaloes Friday morning after they wandered into the path of westbound traffic on West Main Street a few miles east of Patterson, the CHP said.

"I was so close that I could see their eyes and their little horns," said Juarez, 26, of Modesto. "I just swerved to the left (into the eastbound lane) but I still hit the buffalo."

The CHP didn't have all the reports when it said Friday that the buffaloes first were struck by a Honda Civic driven by Merced's George Osterhout, who crashed into one of the animals, which had remained in the road after the initial crash, said CHP Sgt. Pat Crabb.

Juarez was on his way to work at Save Mart in Patterson shortly after 5 a.m. when he encountered the wandering buffaloes near South Carpenter Road.

His pickup was traveling about 50 mph and was about 40 feet from the animals before he spotted them, Crabb said.

Juarez said it was dark and he didn't see the buffaloes until he was too close -- and it was too late. He said the impact smashed his pickup's right front end and passenger side.

"I just made sure to hold onto the steering wheel, so I wouldn't drive off the road," he said.

Juarez was wearing a seat belt. He said he was OK after the crash, but was going to be examined by a doctor Saturday afternoon.

One of the burly beasts was dead in the westbound lane. The second apparently trotted back into a fenced area and collapsed about 50 yards off the road, Juarez said.

"I called the CHP and told them I hit a cow," Juarez said. "I didn't realize it was buffalo."

The second buffalo was so badly injured it had to be destroyed, said CHP officer Tom Killian.

The buffalo that remained on the road was struck a second time by Osterhout's car, Crabb said. The impact broke the windshield. Osterhout, 34, did not suffer major injury, the CHP reported.