Second Fatal Crash on Hwy 1

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 16, 2022

There’s been another fatal car crash on Hwy 1 east of Morro Bay, as what can be a tricky stretch of the scenic highway sees two terrible crashes within two months.

According to a Highway patrol accident report, at about 6:23 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, John Carroll, Jr., 71 of Turlock, Calif., was driving a 2014 Honda CRV and had stopped in the left turn lane on northbound Hwy 1 at San Luisito Creek Road. 

Paul Gendron, 50 of Visalia was coming in the opposite direction in a 2013 Kia Optima traveling the speed limit, according to the CHP, when Carroll turned in front of him.

“The front end of the Kia slammed into the right side of the Honda,” the CHP report said. A third car, a 2012 Ford Escape driven by Vivian Young Gong, 66 of Morro Bay couldn’t avoid the collision that happened right in front of her. Gong’s vehicle “collided into the Kia after the initial collision.”

According to a news report, Gendron’s Kia was shoved into the fast lane after the initial collision and right into the path of Gong’s Ford. 

The chain-reaction crash sent everyone to the hospital with Carroll, Jr., Gendron and Gong all suffering major injuries. The female passenger in Carroll’s car, who was not named in the CHP report, died at Sierra Vista Hospital from her injuries.  

It was the second horrific crash at that same uncontrolled intersection inside of 2 months.

Previously, at about 7:22 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) Jerome “Jerry” Perry, 62 died in an eerily similar manner, when he turned in front of an oncoming car and was hit and killed. 

Perry lived his whole life on San Luisito Creek Road at his family’s ranch compound. 

Perry, driving a vintage Chevy pickup truck, reportedly turned in front of a Hyundai Sonata driven by Gerardo Aldama, 38 of Santa Maria, who reportedly slammed on his brakes but was unable to avoid the crash. 

The collision pushed Perry’s truck about 80 feet into roadside shrubbery where it caught fire. Aldama was reportedly unhurt in the crash.

The stretch of Hwy 1 between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo has a history of fatal crashes going back decades when Cuesta College’s two entrances were also uncontrolled intersections. 

After several people were killed back in the 1980s and 90s exiting and entering the school, stoplights were erected. And given the County’s efforts to transform El Chorro Regional Park into a vacation destination, traffic at the stoplight can be expected to increase greatly.

From Cuesta to Morro Bay there remain three cross street intersections — San Luisito Creek Road (Canet Road on the other side of the highway), San Bernardo Creek Road (Quintana on the other side) and the entrance to the San Luis Sportsmen’s Club’s Shooting Ranges. Each has left turn lanes.

With the City of Morro Bay currently closing off the Hwy 1 South Bay Boulevard exits due to construction of the Water Reclamation Facility pipeline project, one possible go-around is to turn onto Quintana using the cross traffic left turn at San Bernardo Creek Road.

The overall area is sparsely populated and mainly agricultural lands, however, there are several homesteads down San Luisito Creek Road and along Adobe Road, which parallels the highway.

A few people also live off Canet and Dana Roads and if a proposed electric storage facility gets built in that same area at the foot of Hollister Peak, traffic is likely to increase there and stay that way.

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