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Crash leads to county claim


Three Tuolumne people, hurt when their van was broadsided by a Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department car, have filed a claim against the county seeking undetermined compensation.

The June 23 accident happened just before midnight, when Deputy Mark Kerzich, 34, collided with a van driven by Kenneth Camara, 39, of Tuolumne. Camara and his passengers — his wife, Bridget, 41, and William Fye, 24 — were all taken by ambulance to Sonora area hospitals and treated for neck and back injuries.

According to an investigation report, at the time of the accident, Kerzich was going between 70 and 75 mph, pursuing a speeding vehicle on Tuolumne Road. Kerzich, following sheriff's department policy, did not have his car's emergency lights or siren on when he collided with Camara at the intersection of Soulsbyville and Tuolumne roads.

But according to a California Highway Patrol report, Kerzich caused the accident when he drove on the left side of the roadway within 100 feet of an intersection, a state vehicle code violation.

In a report prepared by CHP Officer Paul Benton, Kerzich said he saw Camara's van pull into the intersection from Soulsbyville Road and decided to "move into the left lane hoping (Camara) would see him and stop."

When the van didn't stop, Kerzich braked, then tried to swerve back into the right, or westbound, lane, but struck Camara's van on the left side.

The impact lifted the van into the air, and flattened the rear tires. Kerzich's patrol car hurtled into a field on the southeast side of the intersection. Both vehicles sustained major damage.

Immediately after Kerzich's patrol car came to a rest, the deputy got out and ran back to the van to check on the three occupants, then called for help on his radio.

When Benton arrived, Kerzich was standing in the roadway directing traffic around the accident scene, and the Camaras and Fye remained in the van.

In the claim he filed with Tuolumne County, Kenneth Camara said his 2000 Ford van, worth $17,000, was a total loss. Sheriff's property and evidence custodian Larry Monfort said he did not yet have an estimate on damage to the patrol car, a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria.

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