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Car collision claims life of 13-year-old

A head on collision on State Route 41 south of Avenue 12 killed a 13-year-old girl and caused major injuries to two other women from Mariposa, according to The California Highway Patrol.

The women are in serious, but stable condition as of Sunday.

Antonio Lopez, 70, of Los Banos was driving northbound shortly after noon on Saturday March 14, in a 2006 Toyota Tundra pickup truck, according to CHP Officer Omar Godinez, when he crossed over the double yellow lines and drove into the path of oncoming traffic, striking a southbound gray 2006 Toyota Corolla with three occupants head on.

The collision occurred near the transition junction where Highway 41 reduces from a divided four lane highway into two lanes of opposing traffic. Witnesses said the crash happened so fast neither vehicle was able to avoid hitting the other.

"The vehicles did not overturn," Godinez said. "They came to rest upright in the traffic lanes blocking traffic both north and south traffic ... traffic was detoured around ... for about two hours. The 13-year-old fatality was a rear right passenger and according to a CHP report was not wearing a seat belt. Driver Penelope Choi, 48, and 19-year-old passenger Christina Jarrett were also pinned in the car and sustained major injuries in the collision. Lopez and his 65-year-old female passenger also sustained lacerations, bruising and other minor injuries," he said.

The vehicles were traveling at roadway speeds of 55 to 65 mph but the combined force of the head on impact was over a 100 mph, according to officers. Speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash, they said.

Firefighters worked for nearly an hour to cut the injured out of the car. The girl was taken via Lifeflight helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center, but she died about three hours later.

The investigation is ongoing. Lopez was cited for crossing into traffic and may face other charges, officers said.

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