Friday's fatal crash near the Cholame "Y," which marks the intersection of Highways 41 and 46, claimed two lives and closed both highways for hours. It also marked the first fatal traffic incident at that infamous landmark since July 2017.
The incident occurred when a 60-year-old woman from Paso Robles driving eastbound on Highway 46 drifted into the westbound lane for unknown reasons. She clipped a vehicle in the process and then collided head-on with a farm labor van carrying eight people, CHP Officer Pat Seebart said.
The collision killed the Paso Robles woman and the driver of the van, a 45-year-old man from Tulare.
The last fatal there occurred July 31, 2017, when a Yuma, Arizona, man was killed in a head-on collision just east of the "Y," at the time the latest in a string of eight deaths in so-called "Blood Alley" beginning March 17, 2017.
The area has long been notorious for fatal vehicle accidents, its reputation immortalized when movie star James Dean died in a head-on collision on what was then called Highway 466.
In March of this year, the California Transportation Commission approved a $261 million package that included funding to make improvements to Highway 46 to cut down on such fatalities. In addition, the California Highway Patrol has also increased its speed-enforcement activity in the area.
"Blood Alley" deaths:
Seven separate crashes on the Highway 41/46 corridor have cost seven lives since Spring. Information comes from the California Highway Patrol.
- March 17: A head-on crash on Highway 41 north of the “Y” that killed 22-year-old Jocelyn Estela Carballovillalobos when she drifted into an oncoming car; alcohol was believed to be a factor in the collision.
- March 31: A five-car smashup near the Shandon rest area after a semi-truck veered into a pickup, killing the pickup’s driver, 68-year-old Jesus Acebedo, of Bakersfield.
- April 20: A fatal turn at the “Y” intersection that killed 37-year-old Cheryl Vanwettering, 37, of San Jose, who was ejected out of a motorhome.
- April 30: A three-car pileup on Highway 46 near the Cholame “Y” that killed 71-year-old Michelle Saunders, who drifted into oncoming traffic.
- May 9: A head-on crash on Highway 46 East near Lucy Brown Road that killed 29-year-old Richard L. Lin, of Manalapan, New Jersey, after he drifted into oncoming traffic for unknown reasons.
- May 13: A two-car collision at the “Y” intersection that killed 64-year-old Robert S. Villegas of Bakersfield, when another car crossed in front of him to turn north onto Highway 41.
- July 31: A head-on crash involving a tractor-trailer killed a Yuma, Arizona man on Highway 46 two miles east of Highway 41 after moving into the eastbound lane to pass another vehicle.
- April 6: A head-on collision between a vehicle driven by a 60-year-old Paso Robles woman and a 45-year-old Tulare man resulted in both drivers dying.