Highway 198 busy with accidents


A decade ago, lineups, slowdowns, and waiting more than a vehicle or two to turn onto Sierra Drive (Highway 198) were a rarity in Three Rivers. This year, even during the slower fall season, local roads remain busy and serious accidents can occur at all hours of the night and day.
In the predawn hours of Saturday, Oct. 14, a 29-year-old Three Rivers motorist crashed his 2013 F-150 pickup into a large boulder on the south side of the roadway across from Lazy J Ranch Motel. These late-night crashes are often problematic and, if there are no serious injuries or property damage, more often than not, the motorist is tempted to leave the scene and deal with the wreck in the morning.
Unless, that is, there are witnesses. And, apparently, at this scene west of Pierce Drive, there was a trio of witnesses for the 2:20 a.m. accident. The first reaction of the motorist, according to the CHP investigating officer’s report, was to call his girlfriend to come to the accident and tell the CHP officer that she was the driver at the time of the crash.
But the facts in the case didn’t add up. First, the woman did not appear to have been involved in the accident. Her accomplice in the story, however, had lacerations on his hands and a cut lip. 
Further complicating the couple’s account was the blood on the deployed air bag and in the vehicle. The witnesses also told the officer that they did not see the woman at the time of the accident.
The driver was not cooperative, and the officer had to obtain a search warrant in order to draw a blood sample. The motorist is now facing DUI-related charges.
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At 7:51 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, a three-car accident occurred on Sierra Drive near White Horse Inn that could have had a much worse outcome. Lyle Kerns Jr., 71, of Three Rivers was driving his 2005 Honda Accord eastbound when his vehicle crossed the center line. 
The Honda crashed head-on into Mark Ramsey, 22, of Canoga Park, who was driving a 2014 Mazda sport utility SUV westbound. When the Mazda spun out, Kelly Martin, 28, of Three Rivers, also westbound, crashed her 2005 Audi station wagon into Martin’s vehicle. All three drivers were examined at the scene, and no one was seriously injured. Alcohol or drug use was not a factor in the incident.
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On Monday, Oct. 23, at 7:45 a.m., Luis Cabrera Ponce, 22, of Woodlake, was driving his girlfriend’s 2005 Honda Accord westbound in the series of curves just east of Hawk Hollow Drive. According to the CHP report, the Woodlake motorist made an unsafe turn, skidded onto the gravel shoulder, and flipped the vehicle, landing 20 feet below the north side of the roadway. 
A witness at the scene said a passing motorist helped Ponce get out of the smashed car. He did not appear to be seriously injured; alcohol or drug use was not suspected as a cause of the early morning crash.
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On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 25, an eastbound 2003 Chevy service truck, driven by Bryan Rodriguez of Visalia, rear-ended a 2002 Toyota pickup driven by Jeffrey Taylor, 63, of Three Rivers, who apparently was waiting to make a turn.
The accident occurred in the Village Market/Three Rivers Post Office area on Sierra Drive. Neither driver was reported to be seriously injured. 

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