8 children among 12 injured in violent collision in southwest Fresno

The Fresno BeeMarch 14, 2014 

Twelve people, including at least eight children, were injured, some severely, in a violent collision Friday afternoon in southwest Fresno.

The crash, at the intersection of California and Fruit avenues just west of Edison High School, happened about 1 p.m. as the driver of a black Lexus blasted through a stop sign and collided with an SUV carrying children. Police said the Lexus was clocked at 71 mph moments before the crash.

The impact threw several children from the Chevrolet Suburban. Emergency workers and bystanders rushed to treat the victims, who were lying in the street. Among those rushing to help were several members of a parole apprehension team who happened to be in the area. Neighbors, some distraught, cried and called out to friends at the scene.

"Children were flying from the truck," said a witness, who gave her name as Alma.

There were nine people in the Suburban and three in the Lexus; all 12 were from Fresno, police said. As of 4 p.m., all 12 were being treated for minor to severe injuries at several area hospitals -- Community Regional Medical Center, Saint Agnes Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente and Children's Hospital Central California, police Sgt. Anthony Dewall said. The children range from preschool to elementary-school ages and were coming from a nearby charter school, he said.

No other information was immediately available about the people in the Suburban.

Police were working to confirm who was driving the Lexus. The three people in the car all appeared to be in their 20s, Dewall said, and all denied they were the driver. Police did not immediately identify the three.

The man believed to be driving the Lexus has a suspended license and a warrant out for his arrest for weapons "or drug charges," Dewall said. The first officer on the scene detained that man because he was trying to flee the wreckage. Once the driver is identified, felony hit-and-run charges will be filed, Dewall said.

Dewall described the moments before the crash:

The Lexus was seen by a motorcycle officer who clocked it at 71 mph traveling west on California Avenue. It was unlikely the driver even saw the officer, who was on a side street when the Lexus flew by. The officer began to follow the Lexus but hadn't turned on his emergency lights when the crash occurred.

The officer was about 300 yards behind the Lexus and witnessed the driver pass several other cars on the right. The Suburban was northbound on Fruit Avenue and had stopped at a stop sign at the intersection before crossing. The Lexus smashed into the Suburban in the intersection and both vehicles landed beyond the northwest corner of the intersection next to a commercial building.

Irene Campa, who was working at a strawberry stand at the intersection, said she saw the Lexus speeding west on California Avenue and witnessed the impact. She said both vehicles spun several times as passengers were ejected. She said the motorcycle officer then ordered the Lexus driver to get out of the car and lay on the ground.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6339, jguy@fresnobee.com or @jimguy27 on Twitter. Staff writer Carmen George contributed to this report.

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