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Head-On Crash Claims Two Lives

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Two people were killed Saturday in a multiple vehicle accident on Highway 49 just north of Mill Villa Road.

The California Highway Patrol reports alcohol is suspected in the head on crash.

CHP says 35 year-old Joseph Tatum of Twain Harte was driving south on 49 at a high rate of speed, passing cars in the heavy traffic. As he passed more vehicles on the curve near Mill Villa, he collided head-on with 37 year-old Dwayne Smith of Sonora driving a Honda Accord

Tatum€™s ´87 Mazda RX-7 caught fire from the collision, blocking both lanes of traffic. Two passing motorists and CHP officer J.D. Gibson knocked down the flames until CDF firefighters arrived. Smith died at the scene from his injuries. Tatum was extricated from the car with the Jaws of Life, but later died while being taken to an AirMed helicopter.

The CHP says Tatum had been drinking, but alcohol levels have yet to be determined pending autopsy.