2012-03-22 / Front Page

Family escapes plunge into Merced River

California Highway Patrol officers and tow truck drivers work to retrieve a 1998 Honda Accord from the Merced River around 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Photo: Erik Skindrud/GAZETTE REPORTERCalifornia Highway Patrol officers and tow truck drivers work to retrieve a 1998 Honda Accord from the Merced River around 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. Photo: Erik Skindrud/GAZETTE REPORTERA Salinas, Calif. family escaped disaster when their 1998 Honda Accord lost traction east of Briceburg and plunged into the Merced River on Sunday.

Driver Juan Martinez Lucas, 30, was driving away from Yosemite National Park and nearing Briceburg on Highway 140 around 2 p.m. on Sunday when he lost control of his vehicle. The family's Honda plunged over the embankment and bounced over a field of boulders.

The rear of the car came to rest in the river and began to sink, but several good Samaritans scrambled down to the vehicle and helped the family escape.

Of the five family members, injuries to four were minor. One six-year-old daughter suffered a crushed right wrist and lacerations to her face and neck, however. A California Highway Patrol Report classed the girl's injuries as major.

Lucas was driving near the speed limit at the time of the incident, but the road was wet and his tires were in a worn condition, the CHP report said.

--Erik Skindrud/GAZETTE REPORTER

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At least, they were all safe.

At least, they were all safe. It's the best consolation.
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