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Two die in separate Hwy 101 crashes

Modified: Friday, Apr 5th, 2013

PRUNEDALE — A 29-year-old Watsonville man died in a two-vehicle crash early Thursday on Highway 101. California Highway Patrol officer Robert Lehman said the victim was travelling southbound on Highway 101 in a Honda Accord just south of Crazy Horse Canyon Road at 5:30 a.m.

As he neared Mallory Canyon Road he apparently tried a U-turn from the center turning lane during a light rain. Lehman said the driver of a Mitsubishi Eclipse, with one passenger aboard, traveling northbound on Highway 1, had no time to react as the Honda entered his path. He slammed broadside into the Honda sheering it into two hunks. The Honda driver, who has not been identified, was heaved from his car and landed in nearby brush. Lehman said the Honda driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 23-year-old Mitsubishi driver, a Seaside resident, and passenger suffered minor scratches and were treated at the scene.

One lane of northbound Highway 101 was closed for about 90 minutes.

Lehman said it was unknown if alcohol or drugs played a role in the incident. Excessive speed has been ruled out as a contributing factor.

“If the victim was attempting a U-turn at this point on the highway it certainly was not the safest thing to do and it is not the safest area,” Lehman said. “In this case it makes sense to just go a few more miles to the San Miguel exit and safely turn around. It would only add a few more minutes.”

In a bizarre coincidence, a similar fatal crash occurred just a handful of exits to the south on Highway 101 less than 24 hours earlier than the Mallory incident.

At 6:48 a.m. Wednesday, the male driver of a 1996 Nissan Sedan was attempting to make a left turn from northbound Highway101 onto westbound Espinosa Road when it struck a 1996 Ford pickup traveling southbound on Highway 101. The Ford plowed broadside into the Nissan. The driver of the Nissan, an 87-year-old man from Salinas, was pronounced dead at the scene, Lehman said.

The driver of the pickup, a 49-year-old Salinas man, was taken to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.

Lehman said the Ford driver observed the Nissan turn in front of him and steered to the right in an attempt to avoid the collision, but was unable to.

“It does not appear that drugs or alcohol played a role in this collision which remains under investigation,” Lehman said.

“Folks need to be extra vigilant,” Lehman said. “One small bad choice could have great consequences. We encourage defensive high visual horizon driving, which is where you are looking down the roadway as far as you can, even a few miles and not just focusing on the vehicle in front of you. It is particularly important with freeway speeds. Make it a habit to pay attention to what is happening further down the road and give yourself a safe braking distance.”

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