By JASON ECK
Two men died Saturday afternoon in a head-on crash on Highway 108 north of Mill Villa Road between Sonora and Jamestown, blocking both traffic lanes.
A California Highway Patrol report states that Joseph E. Tatum, 35, of Twain Harte, was driving a sports car west on Highway 108 at a high rate of speed and passing several vehicles. As he made a sweeping right turn north of Mill Villa Road, Tatum encountered an eastbound sedan driven by Dewayne F. Smith, 37, of Sonora. The two collided head-on at 5:45 p.m.
Tatum's car then glanced off into the side of a third vehicle driven by John J. Daniels, 37, of Murphys, who was driving west.
Tatum's car caught fire. A Highway Patrol officer and two passers-by were able to knock down the flames until firefighters arrived.
Smith died at the scene. Tatum, whose vehicle had to be cut away to free him, died about two hours later while being transported to an air ambulance.
Daniels was uninjured and was able to drive his pickup away.
According to a preliminary Highway Patrol investigation, it is suspected that Tatum had been drinking before the crash. Officer Tom Wills said Tatum's blood alcohol level had yet to be determined.
Heuton Memorial Chapel in Sonora is handling arrangements for Tatum and Smith.