A Saturday night crash along Jack Tone Road in Collegeville, near the intersection of Mariposa Road, claimed the life of longtime Escalon Unified School District maintenance technician and Collegeville Fire Department Assistant Chief Kurt Pettitt.
The CHP report indicates that Pettitt, 56, was driving a Kawasaki cart northbound along Jack Tone Road, just north of the intersection with Mariposa Road about 9:15 p.m., June 11, when the Kawasaki was struck by a 2020 Volkswagen Jetta, driven by a 20-year-old man from Ripon.
The Jetta driver was northbound on Jack Tone approaching the Mariposa Road intersection, driving at a high rate of speed. He estimated he was driving between 70 and 80 miles per hour, according to the CHP report, though witnesses placed him driving over 100 mph and traveling over the double solid line, passing several cars, prior to the fatal crash.
The Jetta struck the Kawasaki, said authorities, and as a result of the impact, Pettitt and his wife, 52-year-old Lynda Pettitt, were both ejected from the vehicle, along with two dogs that were riding with them.
Pettitt’s vehicle rolled on to its right side following the impact; Pettitt was declared deceased at the scene of his injuries and his wife was taken to San Joaquin General Hospital with moderate injuries.
The Jetta driver, whose name was not available from authorities at presstime, was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence and taken to San Joaquin County Jail. He reportedly had only minor injuries.
For emergency responders, the call was an exceedingly difficult one, as nearly everyone responding to the scene had worked with Pettitt at some point during his long career as a volunteer with Collegeville Fire.
Farmington Fire Chief Matt Bailey said his department got the initial call, as it was in their district, with the call a tough one all the way around. Also responding were volunteers from Collegeville Fire Department and a crew from AMR ambulance.
Escalon Community Ambulance Chief Vanessa Herrero – who just took over as chief at the Collegeville Fire Department at the beginning of this month – agreed that it was a tough scene.
“We’ve all just known Kurt for so many years, it’s surreal,” Herrero said. “This hurts everybody’s heart.”
Lynda Pettitt – who is a teacher at Dent Elementary – was taken to the hospital with what Herrero classified as “serious but non-life-threatening injuries” and the DUI driver did not require hospitalization.
“Unfortunately, this took the life of our assistant chief; he served here probably for more than 25 years,” Herrero added.
She said the personal nature of the call, losing a colleague, can be especially stressful for the first responders involved, and some of those on the AMR crew are volunteers with Collegeville as well.
“We requested a critical incident stress management team,” said Herrero, with that countywide volunteer team designed to respond to assist first responders. “They had two teams, they came out around 1 or 2 in the morning and met with everybody involved, gave everybody a safe space to go through their emotions.”
The CHP investigation is ongoing; anyone with information about the crash can contact Officer R. Jones at 209-938-4833.
“It was a pretty stressful event,” Herrero said. “We just need to come together as a department and take care of each other.”