O’NEALS – A trip to Yosemite turned tragic this morning as a family was caught up in a accident on Highway 41 just south of Road 200.
Three vehicles were involved in a crash at about 10 a.m. that resulted in several people being airlifted with major injuries after a big rig overturned near Road 406.
Traffic was stopped for construction on Highway 41 when a fully loaded Tri County Septic tanker truck came around a corner, having failed to slow for the warning signs, according to CHP.
The truck veered to the right, colliding with the rock embankment on the west side of the highway, and the cab of the truck was then propelled back to the left, crashing down onto an Isuzu occupied by two women from Ahwahnee.
The tanker trailer then rolled over and landed on a silver hatchback, occupied by four people from Costa Mesa who were returning home from Yosemite.
Madera and Fresno County Fire Departments responded, along with Cal Fire, CHP, Madera County Sheriff and Sierra Ambulance. SkyLife One and CHP H40 helicopters both set down in the middle of the highway, and one male occupant in the hatchback was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center with major injuries. The driver of the tanker truck also suffered major injuries and was airlifted to CRMC. The other two people in the hatchback sustained minor injuries, and could only wait at the scene for the fourth occupant — a 30-year-old female who was pinned in the car with very serious injuries — to be extracted from the vehicle.
One of those waiting at the side of the road was the boyfriend of the woman trapped in the hatchback. He and other members of the group traveling home from Yosemite were following behind the hatchback in another vehicle and saw the whole thing happen. They could only wait and pray as dozens of firefighters worked to free the woman from the car.
A big rig tow truck from Epplers Towing lifted the tanker high enough for crews to place wooden blocks underneath, allowing firefighters room to work at freeing the female passenger from the vehicle using the Jaws of Life.
Suzanne Fetty of Ahwahnee was the driver of the Isuzu, and was headed down to Fresno with her daughter Brittany Dye when the truck crashed down onto the back half of their vehicle, missing them by just inches.
“I felt the roof hit me in the head,” said Brittany, who, along with her mother suffered only minor injuries, but were both still shaken from the incident an hour later.
“I know he told me his name, but I just can’t remember it,” she said. “I want to say thank you to him for helping us.”
As of 1 p.m., the highway remains closed in both directions.
It is not known at this time is drugs or alcohol were a factor in the accident, which remains under investigation.