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Flat Tire Leads to Deadly Collision

7/21/2007 - California
Flat Tire Leads to Deadly Collision

By Kymm Mann/Appeal-Democrat

A 30-year-old Gridley man was killed Wednesday morning when a medical supply van blew a tire and was forced into his lane on Highway 99 near Messick Road.

Officer Jeff Larson of the California Highway Patrol said a “box van” carrying medical supplies was traveling northbound on Highway 99 when the driver, James Sutton, 25, of Redding, felt a “shimmy” in the rear of his vehicle and attempted to slow after the tire blew.

“He tried but couldn’t get to the right shoulder because there were two northbound lanes and there was traffic beside him, so instead he went into the two-way turn lane,” Larson explained. “His intention was to then go back to the right after that traffic had cleared, but he said a sudden gust of wind came up and forced him into the oncoming southbound lane, where he hit the car.”

The car was a Volkswagen Jetta carrying two people. The driver, Christian Ausselet, died shortly after the crash, while the passenger, Joe May, 52, of Richvale was considered “walking wounded,” Larson said, and was transported to Rideout Memorial Hospital.

The accident happened at 4:48 a.m. and southbound traffic was detoured onto Oswald Road until about 8:15. Northbound traffic was delayed for just a short time, Larson said.

The driver was not injured, but the truck was impounded to undergo mechanical inspection and investigators are looking at a variety of factors in the accident, Larson said – including the mechanical condition of the box van, the driver’s hours of service, weather and witness statements.

Sharon Dhaliwal of Yuba City was commuting with a friend to Sacramento when she saw the accident happen just a couple of cars ahead of her.

“I saw the shape of the Jetta, and I cannot believe what the shape of it looked like,” she said. “I didn’t get out because there was so much traffic and stuff on the road; I didn’t want to get hit also. But there was somebody tending to the person driving; I don’t know if the passenger was tending to him or the truck driver had jumped out to help.”

Caltrans officials had an electronic sign placed about two miles before the accident alerting drivers to an accident and detour. Larson said the use of the signs is extremely helpful when they are available.

Flare ashes and a few glints of glass were the only visible pieces of debris left by the time the road was opened a little more than three hours after the accident.

Dhaliwal said she could tell it was really bad, and felt for all of the parties involved.

“It was an ugly scene to see first thing in the morning,” she said.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article please contact Mark Farkhan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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