Highway 168 crash victims left Clovis Monday night, survivor found 12 hours later

Two men died and a third survivor was airlifted to a Fresno hospital Tuesday after a large pickup truck tumbled down an embankment in the Fresno County foothills on Highway 168 on the four-lane section between Auberry and Shaver Lake, according to Fresno County Emergency Medical Services.

A firefighter riding in the rear of a fire truck spotted the crashed silver Chevrolet Avalanche over the side of Highway 168 halfway up the four-lane, about 40 miles east of Fresno, California Highway Patrol Officer Vic Taylor said.

He said the firefighter was riding in the back of the truck and saw the crashed vehicle from the truck’s elevated position. The firefighters reported the crash to the CHP then made their way back to the scene.

Two unidentified Clovis men, ages 19 and 20, were dead at the scene, ejected from the 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche. The third man, identified as Jason Kirby, 24, was extricated from the vehicle after the roof was removed, Cal Fire Capt. Jeremiah Wittwer said.

Kirby, also from Clovis, was conscious and yelled from the vehicle to CHP Officer Joel Williamson. He told investigators that he and his friends left Clovis about 9:30 p.m. Monday, which means they likely crashed 12 hours before the vehicle was finally spotted, Taylor said.

Cal Fire firefighters required rappelling equipment to get to the crash site, the CHP reported.

Reports indicate the vehicle fell 200 to 300 yards down the embankment, the first 100 feet filled with “rocks and boulders,” Wittwer said. He said U.S. Forest Service crews helped chainsaw down brush and trees for firefighters to reach the vehicle, which was on its side and crushed.

The rescued man was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center, according to Fresno County Emergency Medical Services.

He said it’s not known why the truck went off the road.

Don Bare, who lives nearby, said he saw the truck “went way down the hill.”

He added: “If it had been there for days, you’d never see it.”

The crash was reported about about 10:52 a.m. Tuesday.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin