UPDATE 5:18 p.m.: Turlock police are asking people to avoid the Highway 99 corridor between Keyes Road and Lander Avenue as fire crews battle a wildfire that has disrupted traffic since mid afternoon.
The police statement urged people also to avoid the Monte Vista Crossings shopping area at Monte Vista and Countryside just east of the freeway.
A van rolled over on Highway 99 near Keyes shortly after 2 p.m. today, ejecting several passengers and killing one of them, the California Highway Patrol reported. The accident happened just a few minutes after a wildfire broke out along the freeway.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
About 4:45 p.m., the fire continued to burn and Highway 99 was closed in both directions from Keyes Road to West Main Street in Turlock.
Pictures from a KCRA television helicopter showed the smoldering ruins of several mobile homes at a storage lot near Taylor Road.
The accident and fire jammed traffic for a couple of hours extending into the evening commute.
The CHP said the van, carrying as many as nine people, was trying to pass an armored truck when the truck moved into the fast lane. The van driver slammed on the brakes and lost control, and the vehicle flipped.
Three people were ejected, and one person was killed, the CHP said. Another was seriously injured and flown by helicopter to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.
The fire burned grass along the freeway and at one point burned around the Best Western Orchard Inn on Taylor Road.