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Driver in Hwy. 1 crash charged with homicide

Jeffrey P. LaChance, 55, of Paso Robles was arrested Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, on suspicion of vehicular homicide with gross negligence. Original story »
Jeffrey P. LaChance, 55, of Paso Robles was arrested Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, on suspicion of vehicular homicide with gross negligence. Original story »

A Paso Robles man has been arrested in connection with a fatal crash on Highway 1 near San Simeon that occurred Monday while he was on his way to pick up his wife, who works at Hearst Castle, according to the CHP.

Jeffrey LaChance, 55, was booked into County Jail early Tuesday after his Toyota Tundra collided head-on with a Toyota Camry, killing Joan Fuller, a 63-year-old woman from Pennsylvania.

CHP officials at the scene said unsafe passing along the two-lane coastal route likely caused the crash.

LaChance, a former Cambria resident who served as a volunteer firefighter there in the 1990s, remained in County Jail on Tuesday afternoon in lieu of posting a $100,000 bond. He’s charged with vehicular homicide with gross negligence.

When LaChance tried to pass a tour bus heading north about two miles south of Hearst Castle, he collided head-on with the Camry driven by Peter Fuller, 61, of Emmaus, Pa. Joan Fuller, his wife, was in the passenger seat and died at the scene. Peter Fuller suffered major head trauma and on Tuesday remained “in critical but stable condition in the intensive-care unit,” according to an official at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

The collision took place on a curve with limited visibility, but it was in a legal passing area, according to the CHP.

Authorities believe LaChance exceeded the posted speed of 55 mph to pass the bus, which was empty except for its driver and a tour guide and was en route to Hearst Castle to pick up a private charter tour, officials said. Speed tests are being conducted to better determine how fast LaChance was traveling.

After the vehicles collided, both the Camry and the Tundra clipped the bus and caused minor damage to its left front wheel well and side, officials said. The Tundra also ran into a fourth vehicle, a Chrysler van. No one in the bus or van was injured.

The CHP said alcohol and drugs were not involved in the cause of the crash, nor was LaChance distracted. Rather, he was “intent on passing at that point,” the CHP said.

The Fullers, who have family in Southern California, own Willow Brook Farm and its Natural Horsemanship Center in Catasauqua, Pa. On the company’s Facebook page, representatives said they were saddened by the incident, posting that “Joan was our rock” and that they hoped Peter Fuller would recover and “come home soon.”

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