Driver in Fresno County crash that killed 9 was drunk: NTSB report

California
California Highway Patrol officers survey the scene a day after a fatal crash the night before on Highway 33, 13 miles south of Coalinga, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)

California Highway Patrol officers survey the scene a day after a fatal crash the night before on Highway 33, 13 miles south of Coalinga, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)

The driver of an SUV involved in a central California 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 in Fresno County.

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.

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.

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