LODI - A woman from Modesto died Sunday afternoon and five other people in three vehicles were injured, one critically, after a 17-year-old girl from San Bruno driving a Ford F-150 pickup caused a major accident on Highway 12 a mile east of the Mokelumne River Bridge, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The major two-lane highway through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was closed for several hours in both directions following the accident that occurred at 12:55 p.m., Officer Ted Montez said, as firefighters used the Jaws of Life to extricate trapped motorists and two helicopters landed to transport injured parties.
The woman who died was 84 and was a passenger in a Kia Sportage traveling eastbound and driven by a 55-year-old man, also from Modesto. That man was in grave condition Sunday night at San Joaquin General Hospital, Montez said. The woman died at Lodi Memorial Hospital after being transported by helicopter.
Following a preliminary investigation, Montez provided the following details of the accident.
The Ford pickup being driven westbound by the San Bruno teenager came up fast on stalled traffic and was unable to stop in time before she rear-ended a Subaru being driven by a 62-year-old man with a 66-year-old female passenger, both from Kensington and both injured. The impact launched the Subaru into the eastbound lane where it collided head-on with the Kia Sportage from Modesto. The Subaru, with extensive damage, blocked both traffic lanes at this point. The Kia was propelled off the southern edge of the roadway and overturned onto its side, trapping the occupants.
Meanwhile, the Ford pickup kept moving and rear-ended a Honda Element being driven by a 55-year-old woman with a 57-year-old male passenger. Both were from Riverside and both were injured.
Fire crews responded from Flag City and Rio Vista, and multiple ambulances were called to the scene. Emergency vehicles and tow trucks had a difficult time reaching the remote location quickly due to traffic on the narrow highway and motorists getting out of their stopped vehicles and walking on the roadway, Montez said.
The 17-year-old pickup driver was not injured, and there was no evidence that alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident. The teen's parents were called, following CHP protocol, and are cooperating with the investigation, Montez said.
"The comprehensive investigation is ongoing. Upon its completion, findings will be submitted to the District Attorney's Office to determine what criminal charges, if any, will be filed," Sgt. Troy Rivers with the CHP's Stockton office said.
Added Montez: "The safety message we'd like to get out is traffic conditions can change at a moment's notice. That's why it's imperative to devote complete attention while driving a motor vehicle in order to adjust your speed and following distance for the ever-changing traffic conditions."