Two Merced women severely injured in head-on crash

Two Merced women were hospitalized with major injuries Sunday after a head-on crash near Madera, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The women have been identified by family members as Desiree Harris, 28, and Brittany Van Zile, 26. Zile was a passenger in Harris' car. The crash was reported shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Highway 145, east of Road 33.

Lamont resident Honorio Tecpile, 21, was driving a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire westbound on Highway 145 at an unknown speed, carrying two passengers. Meanwhile, Harris was driving a 2005 Nissan Sentra eastbound on the highway.

For an undetermined reason, Tecpile allowed the Pontiac to run off the road, onto the north dirt shoulder. He turned the Pontiac sharply back to the left, lost control and crashed head-on into Harris' Nissan.

A third car, a 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer traveling eastbound behind Harris, was struck by debris from the head-on crash. The 56-year-old man driving the Trailblazer wasn't hurt.

Harris and Van Zile were taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno with major injuries. Their grandmother, Lorese Brown, said Van Zile will be hospitalized up to two weeks, while Harris could be in the hospital for up to eight weeks.

Tecpile suffered moderate injuries and was taken to Madera Community Hospital. A female passenger in his car was also taken to Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries. The CHP didn't provide her name and age.

A third person inside Tecpile's car, 18-year-old Esquel Piepile, was taken to Madera Community Hospital with moderate injuries.

DUI doesn't appear to have been a factor in the crash, and officers said the reason why Tecpile allowed the car to leave the road remains under investigation.

An West America bank account has been set up to help Harris and Van Zile pay for their steep medical expenses. The account number is 2158885679.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.