OAKHURST — A traffic collision in front of the Oak Room bar on Highway 41 last night started with a tense situation for first responders and ended with an airlift to a valley hospital, and several patrons in handcuffs.
Just before 7 p.m on Saturday, Jan. 30, a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee was leaving the Oak Room bar, and pulled out of the parking lot onto Highway 41 directly into the path of a 2011 Freightliner flatbed tow truck owned by Sierra Mountain Towing.
There was no way for the tow truck to avoid hitting the Jeep, destroying the front end on impact. The Freightliner then careened across the road and hit the bank on the far side of the highway.
It is not clear whether the occupant of the Jeep was ejected from the vehicle, was pulled out of the SUV by others, or got out on his own following the crash, but he was lying on the ground when EMS arrived. It is also not clear whether he was the driver, or if anyone else was in the Jeep at the time of the accident.
A crowd gathered around the injured man, and were reportedly drunk and belligerent, becoming confrontational with the Sierra Ambulance Paramedic and EMT who were trying their best to help the man.
After being loaded into the ambulance, the patient was transported to the landing zone at the Chukchansi casino in Coarsegold, and flown by air ambulance to Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries.
Debris from the wreck was scattered across Highway 41, and Madera County Engine 12 and Sheriff’s deputies assisted with traffic control for nearly two hours as the scene was cleared and the investigation conducted by CHP.
As the Jeep was being prepared for transport by Techniques Towing, a fight broke out in the bar, and deputies responded back to the scene, assisted by CHP. Three patrons wound up in handcuffs, though it is not known if they were placed under arrest or just detained until the incident could be sorted out.
At some point during the investigation, officers noted that a Mazda parked near the melee had a damaged windshield, but it wasn’t clear if that happened during the incident, or if it was already damaged upon arrival at the bar.
Meanwhile, the driver of the Sierra Mountain tow truck was evaluated by EMS, and suffering only minor injuries, declined transport for medical attention.
The accident remains under investigation.
If there are any witnesses to this collision, or if you have any information as to who the driver of the Jeep was, you are asked to please contact the Merced CHP Office Dispatcher Center at 559-356-2900 at any time, or the Oakhurst Area Office at 559-658-6590 during regular business hours.