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California Father Witnesses Family Perish in Car Crash

In a tragic story today, a central California father helplessly watched his family, which included his wife and their four young children, perish in a fiery car crash after trying to unsuccessfully rescue his family from the burning vehicle, authorities said Sunday.

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The man was driving behind his family Saturday night when the driver of a minivan ran a stop sign at a Fresno County intersection and hit his wife and children in their Ford Expedition, California Highway Patrol Officer Axel Reyes said.

The SUV was thrown to the front lawn of a home and burst into flames, leaving the 29-year-old mother and her children, boys ages 1 and 3 and girls ages 6 and 11 trapped inside the burning vehicle.

The father told officers he was driving about a quarter-mile behind his family when he saw a flash of flames erupt. The SUV was already on fire by the time he reached them. He tried to set his family free from the vehicle, including breaking the windows, and suffered minor burns to his hand in the process, Reyes said.

CHP Capt. Dave Paris told KSEE-TV that the mother also attempted to escape, but ultimately was unable to.

The minivan’s driver, 41-year-old Juana Martinez Bejarana, was being treated at a hospital for major injuries she sustained.

The CHP was investigating the crash, but has not arrested anyone at this time.

Coroner’s investigators have yet to confirm the burned bodies.

“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.

Speed, alcohol, or drugs are not said to be factors in the crash.

Investigators are looking to see if Bejarano was on any medication at the time of the crash, Reyes said. Her medical history indicates this could be possible.

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