A four-vehicle crash west of the Cholame "Y" intersection early Friday killed two motorists and injured nine others, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Catherine Ann Fox, 60, of Paso Robles was driving a Chevy Cruze eastbound on Highway 46 about 5:56 a.m. when she drifted into the westbound lane for unknown reasons, according to Officer Pat Seebart of the CHP's Templeton office.
Her car initially struck a Nissan Versa driven by Moises Hernandez, 28, of Avenal before colliding head-on with a Toyota Sienna minivan transporting a driver and six farm workers, Seebart said.
Hernandez's vehicle then rotated counter-clockwise into the eastbound lane and was hit by a Chevy pickup truck driven by Paul Cardenassoto, 39, of Salinas, who was traveling eastbound.
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Fox and Jesus Ontiveros, 45, of Tulare, who was driving the Toyota minivan, sustained fatal injuries in the head-on collision, Seebart said.
Hernandez was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo to be treated for major injuries. Cardenassoto did not sustain any injuries during the crash.
Seven additional people were hurt in the collisions and were taken to various hospitals to be treated for minor to major injuries.
Four of the passengers riding in the Toyota minivan sustained major injuries during the collision. Manual Hernandez, 50; Santiago Rodriguez, 57; and Martin Hernandez, 39 — all of Tulare — were taken to Sierra Vista for treatment.
Jose Luis Hernandez, 43, of Tulare was taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno for treatment.
The two remaining minivan passengers sustained moderate injuries. Victor M. Fernandez, 28, of Tulare was taken to Sierra Vista for treatment. Fermin Hernandez, 30, of Kettleman City was taken to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.
Jhoana Carranza, 27, of Avenal, who was riding in the Nissan Versa, sustained minor injuries and was taken to Sierra Vista.
Highway 46 was closed west of the Jack Ranch Cafe until 10 a.m., causing many semi trucks and vehicles to pull off the road or turn around.
Drugs and alcohol were not suspected to have been factors in the collisions, Seebart said.
The Cholame "Y" area — also known as the Highway 41-Highway 46 interchange — has been dubbed "Blood Alley," as it's seen three times the number of motorist fatalities than the state average, according to Caltrans.
At least six people died in fatal wrecks in the area in 2017.
A fix is on the way for the deadly intersection, thanks to $261 million in state transportation money that was approved for San Luis Obispo County projects in March.
Projects to improve Highway 46 will receive $197 million of that funding. Plans call for a new interchange that would eliminate the need for northbound traffic to cross Highway 46 onto Highway 41.