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Alcohol contributed to deadly crash in Thermal

We’re learning more about the cause of a deadly collision in Thermal on Friday; the second deadly crash in a matter of hours in the Coachella Valley.

The accident happened around 2 p.m. on Grapefruit Boulevard, south of Palm Street.

Mecca resident Rodolfo Verdugo, 23, was driving a Chevrolet Tahoe northbound on Grapefruit Boulevard, just south of 58th Avenue.

According to a release from the California Highway Patrol, Verdugo was driving recklessly.

Paula Ureste, a 56-year-old Coachella woman, was driving a GMC Savanna southbound on Grapefruit Boulevard.

CHP said Verdugo struck a concrete barrier with the left side of the Tahoe before hitting a construction sign east of the roadway. The Tahoe then traveled to the left, over the double yellow lines and into the southbound lane.

Verdugo’s SUV hit Ureste’s van head-on. Ureste died at the scene and Verdugo died later that night after being taken to Desert Regional Medical Center.

A 19-year-old man was traveling with Verdugo. He was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center with minor injuries, according to CHP.

Officers said alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash.

“Anytime around the holidays definitely don’t drink and drive,” says Sgt. Robert McLoud with California Highway Patrol. “Designate a driver be safe out there. Traffic is much greater around the holidays with the amount of people on the highway and you just need to exercise extra caution,” says McLoud.

Another crash happened earlier Friday, just after 7 a.m. on Country Club Drive, north of Avenue 42.

The victim was identified by the Riverside County Coroner’s Office as 60-year-old Sotero Diaz of Desert Hot Springs.

Diaz was driving a Honda sedan eastbound and crossed the median, colliding with a gardening truck that was traveling westbound, said Sgt. Dan Marshall with the Indio Police Department.

Diaz died at the scene, and his passenger was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries, Marshall said. The truck was carrying three people but none of them were seriously injured in the crash.

The crash is under investigation.

With Arellano’s death, three people died in the Coachella Valley over Thanksgiving weekend.

KESQ News Team

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