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7 farm workers in van, 1 pickup driver killed in head-on crash in California

ANTHONY GALAVIZ / THE FRESNO BEE via AP
                                Authorities investigate at the site of a head-on crash involving a van and a pickup truck where eight people were killed in Madera County, Calif., Friday.
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ANTHONY GALAVIZ / THE FRESNO BEE via AP

Authorities investigate at the site of a head-on crash involving a van and a pickup truck where eight people were killed in Madera County, Calif., Friday.

MADERA, Calif. >> Seven farm workers traveling in a van and the driver of a pickup truck were killed Friday in a head-on crash in a farming area in central California, police said.

The crash at 6:15 a.m. left the van almost completely crumpled among blooming almond trees near the town of Madera, about 25 miles outside Fresno, California Highway Patrol Officer Javier Ruvalcaba said.

One farm worker seated in the rear of the van survived and was taken to a hospital, Ruvalcaba said. He is expected to recover, Ruvalcaba said.

Only two of the farm workers were wearing a seatbelt, he said. “If they had been wearing their seatbelts, the rear passengers would have probably survived,” Ruvalcaba said.

A witness told police the black pickup truck was swerving in and out of its lane on a two-lane rural highway before crashing head-on with the van, Ruvalcaba said.

“At this point, we don’t know whether alcohol or drugs played a factor,” he said.

The farm workers were about 5 miles from the vineyard where they worked as pruners when the crash happened, Ruvalcaba said.

The van was headed to the farming community of Firebaugh, an area known for its vineyards and fields of tomatoes, garlic, asparagus and other vegetables.

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