By Bill Lindelof
A crash left four people dead in Butte County on Sunday despite the best efforts of passersby and California Highway Patrol officers.
The accident occurred around 6 a.m. Sunday at highways 99 and 162 west of Oroville and involved two pickups and a sport-utility vehicle.
The California Highway Patrol reported that a Dodge pickup traveling south on 99 veered into the opposite lane for unknown reasons and collided with a Ford Explorer driven by 41-year-old Rodrigo Ramirez, who carried five passengers.
Moments later a Ford Superduty pickup right behind the SUV clipped the Explorer, causing the truck to spin out off the roadway.
Within seconds of the collision, William Hague III and Thomas Crossin, who were headed from Chico to Sacramento International Airport, came upon the scene, the CHP said.
The two men went to the Dodge pickup, which was almost fully engulfed in flames and pulled the injured driver, Ryan Finnerty, 21, of Roseville, out of his truck.
Hague then went to the passenger side of the SUV and with the help of Richard Martinez, the uninjured driver of the Ford Superduty, pulled an 11-year-old boy and a 35-year-old man from the Explorer.
Crossin suffered burns to his left hand and Hague was cut on his wrist during the rescues, but both men declined medical aid.
CHP units then arrived at the scene and tried to help. CHP officer Todd Irvin and an unnamed person first pulled Finnerty a greater distance from his burning pickup.
When CHP officer Troy Thompson arrived he immediately attempted to push at the back of the Explorer to get it away from the burning Dodge pickup, using push bumpers on his patrol car.
However, he could not move the Explorer. He then tried to push at the front of the Explorer, but was still unable to budge the SUV.
Thompson was forced to retreat when the fuel tank of the Dodge pickup ruptured, spilling gasoline onto the roadway and under the SUV. The gasoline was ignited by flames from the Dodge pickup and the SUV was enguled in flames withing seconds, the CHP said.
When CalFire arrived, officers discovered the four bodies inside the SUV after firefighters put out the flames.
The CHP said the dead were all from Live Oak and identified them as Ramirez, 41, Gustavo Martinez, Rigoberto Martinez, and Gabriella Rosas. Three people were also hospitalized.
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.