CAL FIRE captain dies in head-on vehicle collision
Capt. Paul Rotondaro was driving from one station to another when he was involved in a fatal head-on collision
Duty Death: Paul Rotondaro - [Gustine, California]
End of Service: 10/02/2019
By Vikaas Shanker
Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)
MERCED COUNTY, Fla. — Two people, including a Merced County CAL FIRE captain, died in a traffic crash on Highway 140 near Gustine airport, according to California Highway Patrol.
The firefighter was identified by CAL FIRE officials as Capt. Paul Rotondaro.
CHP Los Banos officers at about 7 a.m. Wednesday responded to the collision on Highway 140, west of Old Santa Fe Grade, east of the Gustine airport, according to CHP.
A Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by a man in his mid-30s was traveling west on Highway 140 behind a Ford Crown Victoria sedan, CHP Los Banos Officer Shannon Stiers said.
The Dodge driver tried passing the Ford Crown Victoria in a broken yellow line passing zone on the two-lane road, Stiers said. But the Dodge slammed head-on into a Ford Ranger heading east on Highway 140.
The Dodge overturned and ended up south of the roadway, Stiers said, while the Ford Ranger spun out and stopped in the westbound lane of traffic before catching fire.
Rotondaro, who was on-duty, was the driver of the Ford Ranger, Stiers said. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene.
The identity of the other driver was not released on Wednesday.
The Ford Crown Victoria also sustained damage from the collision. But the male driver and female passenger of the vehicle declined treatment for minor injuries.
The collision caused traffic to back up on Highway 140 and Highway 33 as lanes were closed.
Rotondaro had left the Gustine Calfire Station 74 and was heading to another station when the head-on collision occurred, Merced County CAL FIRE spokesperson Scott McLean said.
Rotondaro started his Merced County firefighting career in 2006. He was selected as the 2018 Merced County Firefighter of the Year, according to the Merced County Office of Emergency Services.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement honoring Rotondaro, calling him “a man who dedicated his life to protecting his fellow Californians. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife and children, family, friends, and colleagues. His contribution to his community will not be forgotten.”
Rotondaro left behind a wife, Jennifer, 13-year-old daughter Kiersten and 16-month-old son Wyatt, McLean said.
©2019 the Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)