One dead in Santa Nella area collision

An accident involving three vehicles Tuesday, Jan. 14, in the Santa Nella area claimed the life of one of the drivers involved, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The deceased was identified as Samuel Balbas, 40, a resident of Madera County.

According to the CHP,  Balbas was driving a 2006 Volkswagen westbound on Highway 152 west of Highway 33 when for unknown reasons the vehicle swerved into the center median.

The Volkswagen overturned and entered the eastbound lanes of Highway 152 where it was struck by an oncoming big rig driven by Tiem Lam Phu, 59, of Los Angeles.

The impact ejected Balbas and spun the Volkswagen into the center median, where it was engulfed in flames, according to CHP reports.

An axle of the Volkswagen was thrown into the westbound lanes, where it collided with a 2015 Nissan driven by Felipe De La Cruz, 29, of Santa Clara.

Balbas was pronounced dead at the scene.

Phu sustained major injuries and was transported to Memorial Medical Center, Modesto, the CHP reported, while De La Cruz suffered minor injuries and was transported to Los Banos Memorial Hospital.

The fatal accident occurred shortly after 4 p.m.

Gustine commission seats

The city of Gustine is currently accepting applications from individuals interested in appointment to the Gustine Planning Commission and Gustine Airport Commission.

The Planning Commission studies issues related to the development of the community and makes recommendations to the City Council, as on issues such as zoning variances and conditional use permits and reviews neighborhood development plans.

One seat on the commission is currently available.

The Airport Commission addresses issues relating to the airport and makes recommendations to the council on issues such as budget, maintenance, operations and improvements.

The deadline to apply for appointment to either commission is Friday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m.

Applications are available at Gustine City Hall, 352 Fifth St., or may be downloaded from the city of Gustine website.

Newman Fire

Personnel from the Newman Fire Department and West Stanislaus Fire Protection District’s Newman station responded to 30 calls for service from Jan. 13-19. Fire Chief Keith Bowen said calls for service included one gas leak, six public assists, 15 medical aid responses, one smoke check, four alarms, one structure fire, one trash fire and one motor vehicle collision.

The gas leak occurred Jan. 15 in Crows Landing and was caused by a gas meter with a fitting that was leaking, Bowen said.

The structure fire was a report of a barn fire near I-5 and Stuhr Road. Crews responding to that Jan. 16 report searched the area from Sullivan Road to Fink Road but were unable to locate a fire, Bowen reported.

GUSD board approves eligibility policy

Students at Gustine High who incur multiple school suspensions will face longer periods of ineligibility from extra-curricular or co-curricular activities under a policy finalized by the school board at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Under previous practice, a student suspended from school was ineligible for 10 days after serving the suspension.

The new policy, adopted by the board without comment, applies a 45-day ineligibility period following a second suspension and 90 days of ineligibility following a third.

Student-athletes will not be allowed to be with their team on the bench or sidelines at games during the ineligibility period, according to Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent.

However, he reiterated, student-athletes can continue to practice with their team during the ineligibility period which follows a suspension.

The policy is effective immediately.

West Side weather

Newman resident Marge Carvalho, an observer for the National Weather Service, reported the following high/low temperatures and rainfall amount for the past week. Readings for the previous 24-hour period are taken at 5 p.m. daily.

Monday, Jan. 13: 64/35

Tuesday, Jan. 14: 62/40

Wednesday, Jan. 15: 57/32

Thursday, Jan. 16: 57/31, with .34 inches of rain

Friday, Jan. 17: 56/34, with .06 inches of rain

Saturday, Jan. 18: 52/34

Sunday, Jan. 19: 46/39