• February 04, 2022

Song Xiuming, Xu Zhao Killed in 18-Wheeler Accident at I-5 and CA-140 near Gustine

UPDATE (February 4, 2022): Merced County officials have identified the people killed in this collision as 68-year-old Song Xiuming and 66-year-old Xu Zhao.

Gustine, CA -- February 1, 2022, two people were killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer off Interstate 5 near Gustine.

Authorities say the incident happened around 2:15 p.m. at the intersection of the I-5 service road and State Highway 140. Preliminary investigation suggests a 68-year-old man was driving a Hyundai Sonata north on the freeway before taking the off-ramp and stopping at a posted sign at the CA-140 intersection. For unknown reasons the car pulled forward and into the path of an eastbound Peterbilt semi-truck driven by 40-year-old Brett Cico.

The Peterbilt crashed into the Hyundai in the travel lanes of the highway, causing significant damage to the car and fatal injuries to both its occupants. Cico was unhurt.

No further information is currently available.

Commentary on 18-Wheeler Accident on CA-140 near Gustine

The most recent available images of the intersection where this crash occurred suggest that traffic on the I-5 service road has a stop sign and is meant to yield to vehicles on Highway 140. It's unclear why the victim might not have done so for the approaching truck, but before anyone draws their own conclusions or starts pointing fingers it's important to take a beat and consider whether any other factors--things less common or harder to detect--might have been involved.

For instance: Could the Hyundai have had some kind of mechanical or brake problem that kept the driver from fully stopping or remaining stopped? What about any health problems that might have incapacitated him and taken his foot off the brake? Could something have obstructed his view of the approaching truck--another vehicle, poorly placed signage, or trees, for example? Was signage covered, blocked, or missing at the intersection? Could bad weather or road conditions have been a factor? Does that area have a history of crashes like this one? Is the intersection designed poorly? Ignoring right-of-way for a moment, could the truck driver have done anything differently to avoid the collision or reduce its damage?

Song Xiuming, Xu Zhao Killed in 18-Wheeler Accident at I-5 and CA-140 near Gustine

I'm not trying to overcomplicate things or place any undue blame on anyone. I just want to make sure all the potential variables are addressed as they should be in any accident. Without due consideration of all possibilities no one can be certain why things happened the way they did. Unusual elements contribute to accidents all the time but too often they slip through the cracks during a "by the book" investigation. We even saw a recent incident in West Texas where a person allegedly ran a stop sign and fatally crashed with an 18-wheeler, only for us to find out later that road crews removed the signs during construction and didn't put them back. The victim didn't even know he had to stop there, but until that fact came to light police reports unfairly blamed him.

It's unlikely the same thing happened in California; stop signs rarely go missing, and investigators may eventually find or confirm this tragic incident was due to a momentary lapse in concentration. Many crashes just aren't as simple as they might appear and subtle-but-crucial details are often missed or misunderstood. The victim's loved ones deserve to know every effort was made to find the whole truth; will police be as thorough as is needed to get it?

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