Six children in a minivan were injured in a crash on Highway 99 Monday and at least three of them, including the most seriously injured, were not wearing seat belts or in car seats.
There were nine people in the Chrysler minivan — which at most can hold eight — that rear ended a Chevrolet Tahoe at about 45 mph in stop-and-go traffic through Ceres, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The crash happened just after 1:30 p.m. near Service Road.
The collision remains under investigation to determine who was sitting where and who wasn’t properly restrained but CHP Officer Ming Hsu said investigating officers have preliminarily learned the following:
- A 12-year-old boy and 5-year-old boy were air lifted to children’s hospitals out of the area. Alexis Martinez, 12, was not wearing a seat belt and suffered a brain injury. It’s unknown if 5-year-old Christopher Carmona was in a child safety seat. He suffered a laceration to his head, Hsu said.
- A 2-year-old girl and 10-month-old girl also were not in car seats. Hsu said he did not know the extent of 2-year-old Julissa Martinez’s injuries but that the baby suffered only abrasions.
- Two 8-year-old boys, Jossimar Martinez and Maxamiliano Marez, were both properly restrained and suffered only minor injuries.
- The driver, 32-year-old Benigno Martinez Diaz, was wearing a seat belt and sustained minor injuries.
It is unknown if two adult women in the minivan were wearing seat belts, Hsu said. Blanca Marez, 35, suffered a broken leg and jaw and Aurelia Martinez, 30, had minor injuries.
Hsu said investigators don’t know the relationship between the children and the adults in the vehicle but said both the driver and the mother of the children, if they were in the car, could be cited for not having the children properly restrained or could face charges as serious as child endangerment.
The driver of the Chevrolet that was read ended, 61-year-old Joseph Volk, of Georgia, was wearing a seat belt and wasn’t injured.
The CHP said in a press release that safety restraints, when used properly, can save lives and reduce injury.
“We see these collisions at these speeds every day and people (properly restrained) walk out maybe with some complaint of pain but definitely not this serious,” Hsu said.