Merced, CA Auto Plunges Off Road, Sep 1964


Exclusive to The Times from a Staff Writer.
Merced - A station wagon, operated by a 15-year-old driver, shot off a highway here Friday, into a death dive that killed eight members of a vacationing family.
The dead, dying and one critically injured child lay undiscovered for an hour and a half in and near the wreckage on a railroad embankment flanking U.S. Highway 99 at the north city limits.
The victims were finally spotted by the crew of a passing Southern Pacific freight train.

Victims Listed.
The California Highway Patrol identified the dead as GILBERT GALLEGOS, 38, of 705 E. Warner Ave., Santa Ana; his sister, MRS. DORIS TRAXLER, 36, of North Highland in Sacramento County, and six of her seven children.
The seventh, DUANE TRAXLER, 6, was taken to Merced County General Hospital where physicians fought to save his life.
DUANE and three of the dead youngsters, CHARMAINE, 10; WAYNE, JR., 7, and ANASTASIA, 2, were by the mother's present husband.
Sgt. Traxler, who left for the Far East on August 10, was notified immediately of the tragedy and ordered home. He originally had been scheduled to return in December for Christmas reunion with his wife and children.
The accident occurred as the station wagon was traveling from GALLEGOS' home to MRS. TRAXLER'S home.
MRS. TRAXLER had spent two weeks vacation with her mother, MRS. ANITA GALLEGOS, who resides at her son GILBERT'S home. The brother was returning with MRS. TRAXLER to vacation at her home.
A few feet inside the city limits, the wagon veered out of control on a curve of the highway, went off the 30-foot high road embankment and slammed into the railroad embankment 224 feet away.
The CHP said DWIGHT may have fallen asleep at the wheel. A smashed wristwatch showed the time of the crash as 5:28 a.m.
The car came to rest on its wheels. The impact pushed the engine against the front seat occupants, pinning them there. Passengers in the rear were thrown from the vehicle.
The CHP said MRS. TRAXLER and CHARMAINE were alive when rescuers, summoned by the train crew, arrived at 6:30 a.m. The mother died shortly after being admitted to the hospital and the girl died several hours later.
The bodies of GALLEGOS, a nurse at Compton Hospital in Compton, and his sister and the children were taken to the Solin Funeral Chapel here.
An Air Force spokesman said TRAXLER, a 16-year service veteran who had been sent to Thailand to help set up ground radar installations, will fly to Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco, then brought here by special plane.

Los Angeles Times California 1964-09-05