Merced Man Killed in Two-Car Accident

Utility workers repair a light pole that was knocked down in the accident.

A 20-year-old Merced man was killed early Tuesday morning after being involved in a two-car accident.

According to Merced police, Garrett Christopher Smith-Fuentz was driving his 1988 Oldsmobile east on University Drive shortly before 1:00 a.m. when he was struck by a 2000 Chevy pickup. The driver of that vehicle was Merced resident Zachary Lemas, 18. Police say Lemas was driving along M Street when he crashed into the driver’s side of the Oldsmobile at the intersection. Police believed that Lemas swerved to avoid hitting Mr. Smith-Fuentz but was unable to because he was traveling at a high rate of speed.

The impact of the collision caused the Oldsmobile to spin into a light pole before hitting the wall of a home located on the street corner. The light pole partially fell onto the home but the residents inside were unharmed. Emergency personnel responded to the scene, where they found Smith-Fuentz pinned inside the car. He was eventually freed by firefighters but had already died from his injuries.

Lemas and a 17-year-old passenger received minor injuries. Police asked Lemas to submit to a breath test but determined that he was not under the influence of alcohol at the time the accident occurred. They do, however, believe he was traveling well above the posted speed limit of 45 mph when he struck Mr. Smith-Fuentz.

Merced police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident to call the department’s tip line (209) 385-4725. Tips can also be sent via anonymous text message by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “ComVIP” as the keyword in the text message.

Should police determine that Mr. Lemas caused the accident by speeding or driving recklessly, he may face criminal charges for causing Mr. Smith-Fuentz’s death. In addition to facing jail time, fines and/or probation, he may also face civil penalties if the victim’s family choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against him. In the state of California, negligent drivers who cause injury or death to someone else may be required to pay the victims or their families compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one has suffered the emotional and physical trauma of a car accident because of someone else’s carelessness, you may also be able to seek damages for your injuries. The law firm of Nadrich & Cohen LLP is available to assist car accident victims in the Merced area and throughout California in protecting their rights.

Our car accident injury specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-722-0765. Your initial case evaluation is free and there is never a fee unless we recover a judgment on your behalf. Don’t let a car accident ruin your life. Call Nadrich & Cohen today to get the experienced legal help you need to prove your California car accident injury claim.