At about 10:37 pm Thursday night, the California Highway Patrol, Turlock Fire Department, and American Medical Response were dispatched to a reported vehicle collision with unknown injuries on southbound State Route 99 just south of West Monte Vista Avenue.
When crews arrived on scene, they located a single vehicle involved, which was a silver Ford SUV. The vehicle was on its roof in the dirt just west of the freeway and there was a female laying on the ground unresponsive next to it.
The vehicle had a total of six occupants. Its driver, Luis Rodriguez, 35, of Merced, suffered major injuries and was ground transported to a local hospital by American Medical Response. Its front seat passenger, who was Rodriguez’s wife, Eva Mendoza, 31, of Merced, was declared deceased at the scene. Its four remaining passengers, ages 3, 2, 1, and 6 months, all of Merced, who were Rodriguez’s and Mendoza’s children, were uninjured but ground transported by American Medical Response to local hospitals as precautionary measures.
Officers began investigating and determined that the vehicle was traveling southbound on State Route 99 just south of West Monte Vista Avenue when for an unknown reason, Rodriguez lost control of it, causing it to travel off of the freeway and overturn, ejecting Mendoza and colliding with a chain linked fence in the process. When Mendoza hit the ground, she immediately succumbed to her injuries. The vehicle then came to final rest on its roof.
Officers also determined that neither Rodriguez or Mendoza were wearing seatbelts at the time of the collision and that Rodriguez was under the influence of alcohol.
Rodriguez was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence causing injuries, however, was later released to the hospital to be treated for his injuries.
The investigation remains on-going. Anyone with information that could assist in the investigation is encouraged to call Officer Juan Nava at 209-545-7440.