Saturday , May 25 2024

Four Men Ejected from Overstuffed Van, CHP says no seatbelts worn

Four Porterville farm workers are dead, after they were ejected out of their over-stuffed van on Friday night on a rural road north of Reedley. The driver, 39-year old Augustin Mendoza, faces vehicular manslaughter charges.
The California Highway Patrol said the crash happened just before 6pm near the intersection of American Avenue and Navelencia Avenue. The CHP said the van had nine-passengers, even though it’s only meant for eight. Though the case is still under investigation, CHP believes the van collided with a semi-truck and overturned.
CHP Officer Sean Duncan said, "The van went over the single solid yellow line in order to pass, prior to knowing that the truck was making a left turn. And the front right of the van collided with the left front of the truck and caused the van to roll."
The fatal accident occurred on the corner of Terry Lee’s grape vineyard farm. He said he was coming home on Friday night when he noticed the roads were blocked because of the crash. He said the accident was like nothing he had ever seen before.
Lee said, "There was a lot of lights, and it was all lit up. And you could tell it was something major had happened."
Mendoza, and four of eight of his passengers survived, escaping with only minor injuries. But, the other four men whom CHP said didn’t wear seatbelts, were ejected from the van and died. The victims are 21-year old Pedro Rodriguez Vasquez, 29-year old Fortino Vasquez Tepeco, 55-year old Jorge Aguilera, and 56-year old Aguileo Vasquez Vargas. The four men who did survive are 19-year old Alejandro Jimenez, 26-year old Eufrasio Martinez, 37-year old Modesto Zapotitlan, and 40-year old Faustion Angel. All of the passengers in the van were from Porterville.
"It’s very sad that people had to lose their lives just over someone’s mistake," said Lee.
The CHP said Mendoza was not a contracted farm labor driver, but all nine of the men in the van were farm laborers, coming from work.
Lee said he employs as many as 160 farm workers during harvest season. He said he reminds his workers everyday, that safety is all that matters.
He said, "We have safety meetings and I use a labor contractor. But, safety’s talked about everyday, just the traffic and just safety in general."
The semi truck owner said his driver was shaken up, but was not hurt.
The CHP said on Saturday that it wants the public to be reminded that they should always wear their seatbelt when they are in a car.

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