Two Women Killed, Three Children Hurt near Kerman, CA, in Car vs. Pickup Crash

Maria Ledesma, 67, and her daughter, Christina Ledesma, 29, were killed on 3/21/14 at 7:30 AM at the intersections of Jensen and Goldenrod Avenues near Kerman, CA. Both women sat in the front, while three children under age 5 sat in the back. Two received mild to moderate injuries, while a third suffered severe head trauma from the car’s roof collapse in the rollover. Erick Diaz, 34, impacted them in a 2003 Dodge Dakota. Christina was a mother to one of the three children and babysitting the remaining two. Diaz received minor injuries.

The Tercel was eastbound on Jenson. The Dakota ran the Goldenrod stop sign while southbound at 55 mph. It impacted the Tercel on the driver’s side and both vehicles rolled. The two women died at the scene, while the children were injured. Diaz stated he did not notice the stop sign.

This appears to be another sad case of fatalities resulting from an individual running a stop sign. What makes this case particularly tragic is that the law-abiding citizens were killed due to the negligence of the law-breaking driver.

The 1995 Tercel weighs ~2000 lbs and did not come with a side impact score or side airbags. It would have received a “poor” side rating due to the lack of airbags and high degree of cabin intrusion. It was impacted by a 2003 Dakota, which weighed ~3589 lbs. That’s 109% of the weight of the simulated vehicle in the IIHS side impact test.

Given the likely speeds of the collision (~55 mph), the collision likely imparted at least 492KJ of energy into the Tercel. The standard side impact test simulates 143KJ of energy (a 3300-lb sled impacting a vehicle at 31 mph). In other words, the Tercel’s occupants faced 344% of the force they’d have experienced in the types of crashes cars are side rated for. Given the speed of the collision and the lack of airbags and structural integrity of the Tercel, their odds of survival were, sadly, virtually non-existent.

It is highly noteworthy that all three children survived the collision, albeit with various degrees of injury. It is almost certain that all three children were belted, and a car seat was recovered from the scene of the collision, suggesting at least one child was very securely restrained. Given their survival, it is likely that all three children were restrained in well-fitting car seats that met all relevant safety requirements. What we have here is another sad example of the orphan seat phenomenon, wherein the children survived due to their proper restraints while the adults in the vehicle did not.

This collision was completely preventable. Diaz will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges.

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