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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Man Dies in Crash on California 126

Accident: Witnesses say the driver was speeding before losing control and crashing head-on into a truck.

May 13, 2000|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FILLMORE — A violent head-on collision on California 126 east of Fillmore killed a 34-year-old San Fernando Valley man during the Friday morning commute, authorities said.

Martin Contreras Gonzales of Pacoima was killed after swerving across the center median at high speed and crashing into the cab of a Ford pickup driven by Miguel Rodriguez Arreola, 45, of Fillmore, said the California Highway Patrol. Arreola is listed in serious but stable condition at Santa Paula Hospital.

Witnesses told authorities Gonzales drove his 1991 Buick westbound down the center median at speeds of about up to 80 mph before he appeared to lose control and veer into eastbound lanes. The Buick slammed into Rodriguez's oncoming pickup truck at Fish Hatchery Road.

In the impact, the truck skidded over the top of the Buick, tearing open the car's roof before rolling onto its side and coming to a rest on the roadway.

Authorities closed several lanes on both sides of the roadway until 11:30 a.m. while they investigated the accident and cleaned up the wreckage.

The crash was the second this year along a 23-mile stretch of California 126 long known as "Blood Alley',' but authorities said the thoroughfare is now considered relatively safe since a road widening project was completed in December 1997. Since the road improvements, there have been a total of four fatal accidents that have claimed six lives.

"In the old days, when that was just a two-lane road, it was one of the worst areas for accidents," CHP Officer David Webb said. "We really haven't had that many anymore. The problem was alleviated since we widened that stretch."

In fact, a fatal accident last October wasn't blamed on either excessive speed or problems with the roadway. That accident occurred when a trash truck leaving the Toland Road Landfill lost its brakes and rolled onto the highway, striking a passing van and killing two passengers.

A fatality in February occurred during a heavy downpour, when a pickup truck slammed head-on into another truck. One of the drivers died on impact, authorities said.

Until the long-awaited road widening project was completed, the Santa Clara Valley's main highway ranked among the state's worst for fatal accidents. According to state records, fatalities along this stretch of road were more than double the state average.

Between 1990 and 1994, 34 people died on California 126, an excessive number considering 35 deaths occurred ruing the same period on the Ventura Freeway, where daily traffic is as much as five times higher.

During one particularly deadly seven-month period in 1984, 22 people died, most of them in head-on collisions.

The widening project began in 1985, a $35.8-million effort that added two lanes of highway from Hallock Drive in Santa Paula to Interstate 5 in Los Angeles County.

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