Three people were seriously injured when a septic tanker slammed into two cars stopped at a construction site on Highway 41 just north of the 22 Mile House in the Madera County foothills on Monday morning.
Firefighters from Fresno joined Madera County firefighters, the California Highway Patrol and several other agencies in the rescue effort.
The crash happened just after 10 a.m. at Road 406 and forced closure of Highway 41 at Highway 145 and Road 200, the CHP said. The roadway was reopened to traffic in both directions by 4:24 p.m., the CHP said.
CHP Officer Josh McConnell said the incident took place as three small cars were stopped above the construction site waiting for a flagperson to give them the go-ahead.
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The big rig, pulling a sewage tank, came barreling around a downhill bend and its driver apparently didn’t see the construction knot. He veered to the right side of the roadway and missed the third car in the line, then hit a rocky embankment on the side of the roadway. The tractor toppled to the left and crushed an Isuzu. The septic tank trailer fell on top of a Subaru. The tank, which was full, did not break open.
Two of the occupants on the driver’s side of the Subaru were able to get out of the car on their own. A male victim in the right rear seat sustained major injuries and was rushed to a hospital by ambulance.
Rescue workers extracted a woman in the right front seat and airlifted her to Community Regional Medical Center.
The truck driver, who sustained serious head injuries, also was airlifted to CRMC. Their conditions were not available Monday afternoon.
Brittany Dye and her mother, Suzanne Fetty, who were in the Isuzu, said they feel very lucky to be alive. Both escaped through a window with the help of a good Samaritan. Dye said the only part of the Isuzu that was not crushed was the area where she and Fetty were sitting.
“I heard a big explosion,” she said. “Like a bomb or dynamite. Our car slid sideways. The next thing, I felt something touch my head and this guy was pulling us out of the car.”
The CHP is investigating whether drugs or alcohol had a role in the crash.