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Mother, 4 kids killed in fiery crash

| Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 9:03 p.m.

FRESNO — A Central California mother and her four children were killed in a fiery crash during the weekend when a vehicle ran a stop sign and hit their sport utility vehicle.

The collision occurred after 7 p.m. Saturday when a 2004 Nissan Quest minivan ran a stop sign and hit the 29-year-old woman and her children — boys ages 1 and 3 and girls ages 6 and 11 — riding in a 2003 Ford Expedition SUV at an intersection in Fresno County, Highway Patrol Officer Axel Reyes said. Within minutes, the SUV was engulfed in flames.

The woman's husband, driving a quarter-mile behind the SUV, saw the vehicle burst into flames and tried unsuccessfully to free his family from the vehicle, including breaking the windows, Reyes said. He received minor burns to his hands. His wife and their children died at the scene.

The minivan's driver, 41-year-old Juana Martinez Bejarano, was hospitalized for major injuries. CHP officers and fire officials are investigating the crash and the fire.

Coroner's investigators have not confirmed the identities of the burned bodies.

A witness said the minivan was traveling about 60 mph or near the 55 mph limit in the area, Reyes said.

Speed is not considered a factor in the crash; neither are drugs and alcohol, he said.

“You almost could not have timed it any better. The two front corners” of the two vehicles struck at the worst angle — right near the engine blocks — likely leading to the fire, Reyes said.

Investigators are looking into whether Bejarano was on medication. Her medical history indicates that could be a possibility, Reyes said.

The couple was headed to pick up another child, which is why they were in two cars, Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said. It's unclear whether the child was their own.

The crash was a tragedy for the Fresno County community, where it's impossible not to bump into people one knows, Hadden said. Everyone involved in the accident was from the small town of Riverdale, which is just north of the crash site.

Distraught family members gathered along with the father at the crash site on Saturday evening, Reyes said.

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