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Fiery Highway 99 death
Good Samaritans save one man
Fatal-truck-DSC 4873-LT
CHP Officer Angel Herrera inspects the damage to a pickup truck that crashed head-on into the end of a concrete T-bar barrier on the east shoulder of Highway 99 shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Two heroic motorists put their lives on the line for two strangers when they came upon a burning pickup truck Tuesday afternoon in the northbound lanes of Highway 99 just south of French Camp Road.

Two Stockton brothers had apparently drifted off the roadway and struck a concrete T-bar divider used by Caltrans to create a diversion lane in the roadway of a construction area. The impact literally split the engine compartment in two sparking a horrific fire following the crash.

The two heroes, one a Folsom police officer and the other an after school teacher in Stockton, both ran from their cars to help the two men who were being overcome by smoke and flames. The officer said the door wouldn’t budge forcing them to use their hands to bend the door frame.

“Oil and gasoline was everywhere,” the officer said, who — like the other Good Samaratian — declined to be identified. “The fire was so intense.” 

The teacher said the brother in the right-hand seat was attempting to get his seatbelt to open but it was stuck. The two men were not able to get the passenger out before he perished in the smoke and flames. As the men got the driver pulled to the roadway, he told them his brother was still in the truck, but said little else.

The teacher was on his way home to Stockton after visiting Manteca’s DMV. The officer was returning to his home in Folsom when they came upon the carnage. The helicopter was able to land at the nearby golf course located at French Camp Road and Highway 99.

They said that before fire crews arrived on the scene, the state highway workers had used their water truck to put out the flames that had engulfed the vehicle. Neither of the rescuers was injured in their efforts to rescue the men. 

The driver who was airlifted by Merced Hospital’s Mercy Helicopter, reportedly had inflicted major injuries and burns about his body. He was transported to the University of Davis Burn Unit in Sacramento. CHP officers continued their investigation throughout the afternoon backing traffic up for miles. The inside lane was finally opened later in the afternoon.