The driver of an SUV involved in a western Fresno County crash that killed nine, including seven children, was drunk and didn’t have a license, federal investigators said Thursday in a preliminary report.
The children, who were between 6 and 15 years old, were members of two related families traveling with a 34-year-old woman in a Ford F-150 truck that was struck by a Dodge Journey SUV on New Year’s Day along rural State Route 33.
The crash site was between the towns of Avenal and Coalinga about 50 miles outside of Fresno.
Driver Had Twice Legal Blood-Alcohol Level
The preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found the 28-year-old driver of the Dodge had a blood-alcohol level more than double the state’s legal limit. He did not have a driver’s license, the report said.
Both drivers had marijuana in their systems, according to the report.
The cause of the head-on crash remains under investigation by the NTSB and the California Highway Patrol.
“The NTSB is awaiting the results of further toxicology testing for both drivers and will evaluate the potential role of alcohol and drug impairment in this crash. Medical and human performance evaluations will also examine whether driver fatigue, distraction, or medical conditions were factors in the crash,” the preliminary report said.
Ford Truck Burst Into Flames
The Dodge was traveling southbound on the highway when it veered onto the dirt shoulder for an unknown reason, investigators said. The driver then overcorrected and swerved into the southbound lane, where it struck the Ford.
The Ford burst into flames on the dirt shoulder, while the Dodge came to a stop straddling both lanes of the highway, according to investigators.
Officials said at the time that weather or other road conditions did not appear to be a factor, officials said.