One dead, four injured after pick-up hits teens walking to Ceres school

5:39 AM, Feb 10, 2011   |    comments
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SLIDESHOW: On the scene in Ceres

CERES, CA - One student was killed and four others were injured in Ceres Wednesday morning when a pick-up truck struck them in an intersection behind Mae Hensley Junior High School.

Ceres police Sgt. Jose Berber said four of the girls, ages 13 and 14, were hit where Fowler Road and Darwin Avenue meet. He said the victims were walking on the north side of Fowler, crossing the street toward the school, when a full-size, 1995 Chevy pick-up traveling southbound on Darwin hit them.

Berber said investigators learned late in the day that a fifth girl, whose name was not released, suffered minor scrapes when the pick-up stopped moving on the south side of the roadway.

Berber said one girl died at the scene. The victim's grandmother, Trinidad Tarancon, and cousin confirmed the girl was 13-year-old Danielle Tarancon-Leon.

"I went over to one of the ambulances, and they identified her off of my cell phone," Tarancon said. "And they came back and told me that she hadn't made it. That she had been killed."

Tarancon said her granddaughter usually didn't walk to school, she's usually dropped off. However, on Wednesday, school started late and the victim's mom had to go to classes at Modesto Junior College.

Danielle was dropped off at her cousin's house, and then walked with several friends to school.

"Who wants to think that something like this is going to happen, it's the last thing you expect to get a phone call that your child has been in an accident, much less ran over," Tarancon said.

Nancy Zavala, 14, was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where she was in fair condition, authorities said. Her family rushed to her side, relieved to find her awake and talking.

"I think she knows what happened," said sister Gabby Zavala. "She was crying and, you know, in pain  ...  She's going to get knee surgery (and) she's going to get better, I hope."

Jessica Suarez was transported to Memorial Hospital in Modesto with moderate injuries and was being kept for observation. The fourth girl, Alexis DeLeon, was treated at the scene for abrasions and bruises.

The driver of the pick-up, identified as a 45-year-old Ceres man, was at the police station and cooperating with investigators, according to Berber.

Investigators were looking for and interviewing witnesses to corroborate information investigators had that the driver may have been on a cell phone or was using earphones at the time of the collision, Berber said.

It was not known if alcohol or drugs played a part.

Classes were in session at Mae Hensley, which is a block from the crash scene. Jay Simmonds, Asst. Supt. of Student Support Services, said counselors, psychologists and nurses were on campus for students and staff.

The accident was reported just before 9 a.m.

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