Five people died and two were airlifted with injuries in an accident at Highway 120 and Smith Station Road near Groveland on Saturday evening, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Both vehicles caught fire after the 6:30 p.m. head-on collision and an explosion followed. People inside the cars could not get out, the CHP reported.
“It’s one of the worst we’ve had in a while,” said Nick Norton, public information officer for the Sonora CHP office.
The fire spread from the cars to the hillside area of the Stanislaus National Forest and shut down the highway; it was expected to remain closed into the evening with traffic being diverted to Ferretti Road, Norton said. The fire was contained completely by fire crews called to the scene.
The cars were a 2012 Mercedes registered out of San Jose and a 2012 Nissan registered in Merced. There was no information on how many people were in each car, nor the extent of the injuries of the two who were flown to a hospital.
Initial reports put the number of dead at six, however Norton said it was later confirmed to be five.