KINGS COUNTY, California – (KGPE) — Authorities said the victim killed in a rural Kings County head-on crash Friday morning was a female correction officer from Hanford.
The state corrections department confirmed that a correctional officer from Avenal State Prison and another from Pleasant Valley State Prison were involved in the deadly wreck.
The Kings County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim killed in the crash as Veronica Avalos, 41, of Hanford. She had worked at the state prison in Avenal since 2002.
Avalos was driving a 2007 Toyota Camry behind a row of traffic southbound on Avenal Cutoff Road, south of Gale Avenue, around 6:25 a.m., while a 2013 Chevrolet Bolt was driving northbound from the opposite direction, the California Highway Patrol said.
At some point, a vehicle in front of Avalos initiated a passing maneuver by traveling onto the northbound lane of Avenal Cutoff. The Camry joined the other car and initiated her own passing maneuver.
During the passing maneuver, the vehicle in front of the Camry quickly merged back into the southbound lane and narrowly avoided a collision with an oncoming vehicle, the Bolt, CHP Officer Ken Bird said.
Unfortunately, Avalos was not able to merge back in time before slamming into the Bolt head-on.
Bystanders stopped and tried to break the vehicle windows to help free people trapped inside, the CHP said. One vehicle was reported to have caught fire before it was extinguished.
Bird said Avalos died at the scene, while the driver of the Bolt, Ricardo Jesus Vega, was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Vega, who works at Pleasant Valley State Prison, said suffered two broken legs and will have to have surgery on at least one of the legs.
Terri Hardy, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman released the following statement:
“CDCR can confirm that two people involved in the fatal Kings County crash that occurred this morning are CDCR employees, one an officer at Pleasant Valley State Prison and the other an officer at Avenal State Prison. We are devastated to hear this news and the entire CDCR family is sending our comfort and support to staff at the prisons as well as the family and friends of the employees involved.”
Bird said the crash is still under investigation and it is unknown whether drugs and/or alcohol were a factor.