Fatal crash
One person died and a fire broke out when a big rig hauling a trailer crashed with a sports utility vehicle on eastbound Highway 108 near Tulloch Dam Road, partially blocking the eastbound lanes, personnel with Cal Fire and the California Highway Patrol said.

One person died and a fire broke out on Friday when a sports utility vehicle tried to pass a big rig hauling a trailer on eastbound Highway 108 east of Knights Ferry, partially blocking the eastbound lanes, personnel with Cal Fire and the California Highway Patrol said.

Both vehicles caught fire and there is one fatality confirmed, Steve Machado with the Sonora area CHP said. There was a huge plume of black smoke, said a witness who passed the crash scene while driving toward Sonora.

The crash happened shortly after 10:40 a.m. on the road between Oakdale and Sonora, in the split lanes that begin just east of the Stanislaus-Tuolumne county line, in Tuolumne County.

A 21-year-old man from Fresno was driving a 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV east on Highway 108, at high speed, and tried to pass Robert Ellis, of Redding, driving a 2019 Freightliner Cascadia big rig-trailer combo, CHP personnel said.

The right side of the SUV contacted the big rig and the Fresno man lost control of the SUV, which went in front of the big rig and a second impact occurred. On the second impact, both vehicles caught fire and came to a stop.

Ellis was able to escape uninjured. The driver of the SUV was unable to escape and died of his injuries at the scene. 

The crash scene was on the eastbound side of the split lanes, a witness said. There were fire trucks and ambulances and at least one Caltrans vehicle.

Multiple fire engine crews responded to the fire, which spread to grass and shrubs on the side of the road, Emily Kilgore with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit said. Firefighters stopped forward progress of the fire and contained the fire to less than one acre.

Eastbound lanes of Highway 108 were shut down at the crash for about one hour until one of the lanes was opened for traffic.  One eastbound lane was open as of 12:30 p.m., Machado said. The name of the driver was withheld pending family notification.

A crash investigation was continuing. Alcohol and drugs were not suspected to be factors.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy. 

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