Thursday, March 20, 2014
Mother, 29, and 4 Children in Riverdale, CA Killed in Minivan-SUV Crash
Who: Esmerelda Saucedo, 29, Breanna, 11, Jada, 6, Nikko, 3, and Isaac, 1.
Injuries: 1. Martinez Bejarano, 41, major injuries.
Where: Marks and Excelsior intersection in Riverdale, CA.
Vehicles: Ford Expedition, 2004 Nissan Quest.
Impact location: Front left of Expedition, by the engine block.
Human element: Family members stated that the family was traveling to a Fresno restaurant to celebrate the 2nd birthday of the youngest child. The father was following behind in a second vehicle, saw the crash occur, and tried unsuccessfully to save his family, but was unable to pull any members from the vehicle.
The Expedition was heading south on Marks and had the right of way when it was T-boned by the red Quest, whose driver was heading west on Excelsior and did not stop at the light. The Quest was estimated to be traveling at around 60 mph in the 55 mph speed zone. The Expedition burst into flames up to 15 feet high shortly after the crash and everyone in the vehicle died at the scene despite extrication attempts by the father.
Risk factors: Quest driver did not stop at the stop sign, Quest driver was driving without a license, witnesses stated multiple prior fatalities had occurred at that intersection. Potential engine defect in Expedition.
Protective factors: Equal weight vehicles.
Vehicle analysis: The single highest loading factor for this collision was the failure of the Quest driver to yield at the stop sign. Beyond that, it is unclear why none of the family members were able to exit the vehicle. It is possible that the mother became incapacitated due to the collision and was therefore unable to exit or aid her children in exiting the vehicle. If the fire spread from the engine compartment rapidly, the fire itself or gases from the fire could have quickly overwhelmed the mother and oldest daughter. It appears that none of the family members died from the impact, and that all died from the fire. The reasons for the fire itself remain unclear, but a review of NHTSA complaints related to the Expedition's engine compartment reveals dozens of complaints related to engine fires due to spark plug ejections in the Triton engine. It is possible that the faulty spark plug assembly or a similar engine defect may have led to an engine fire after the collision.
Given the rapidity with which the fire consumed the vehicle, it is likely that no measures save the immediate proximity of a fire truck could have saved everyone in the vehicle. However, the presence of safety equipment such as a Life Hammer might have enabled the father or other bystanders to enter the vehicle, or the mother and oldest children to escape the vehicle. Similarly, a car fire extinguisher might have bought the family valuable seconds with which they might have been able to escape the vehicle.
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