FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Nine people, majority children, were killed Friday night in a fiery head-on crash on Highway 33 near Avenal, authorities said.
Officers around 8 p.m. received a report of a crash on Highway 33 south of Sutter Avenue, said Sgt. Brian Pennings of the California Highway Patrol. Emergency crews arrived to find a 2007 Ford engulfed in flames, it was later found that it was still occupied during the fire, resulting in death to all occupants.
An investigation found that the sole occupant of a 2013 Dodge, identified as Daniel Luna, 28, of Avenal, was heading south on Highway 33 near Sutter Avenue at an undetermined speed when the vehicle veered onto the dirt shoulder. The driver overcorrected and headed back onto the roadway and slammed into the front of the Ford heading in the opposite direction.
After the crash, the Ford went into the dirt shoulder, caught fire and became overwhelmed in flames, Pennings said. The Dodge came to rest straddling both lanes of Highway 33.
After crews extinguished the fire, officials found eight occupants in the Ford, which only had seats for five people.
The Fresno County Coroner’s Office has yet to release the identities of the victims in the Ford but said the driver was an adult woman and the passengers were seven children believed to range in age from 6 to 15 years old, said spokesman Tony Botti. These are two different families who are related to each other.
Due to the nature of the crash, officials have not positively identified everyone in the Ford and will make the names available once the process is complete.
The crash is under investigation and it is unknown at this time if alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor.