A 21-year-old Hollister resident was killed Friday morning when
her car collided with a pickup truck on Highway 25 in northern
On her way to work as a student
–park ranger at Pinnacles National Monument, Melissa Lynn
Giuliodibari died on impact when she lost control and swerved into
oncoming traffic on the two-lane rural highway.
A 21-year-old Hollister resident was killed Friday morning when her car collided with a pickup truck on Highway 25 in northern Paicines.
On her way to work as a student–park ranger at Pinnacles National Monument, Melissa Lynn Giuliodibari died on impact when she lost control and swerved into oncoming traffic on the two-lane rural highway.
Her compact car was struck by a 3/4 ton pickup truck driven by 26-year-old Justin Pinochi of Minden, Nev., according to California Highway Patrol information officer Terry Mayes.
“Literally a moment – one instant,” Mayes said. “It’s tragic.”
Pinochi complained of minor pain and was transported to Hazel Hawkins Hospital, Mayes said. He was later released.
The truck’s passenger, King City resident Mandi Wiley, 24, suffered internal injuries to her abdomen and was airlifted to San Jose Medical Center. She was in fair condition Friday and was later released.
Giuliodibari had been a student at West Valley College in Saratoga – while working at Pinnacles since November, according to Pinnacles chief ranger Jerry Case. She lived with her parents in Hollister, he said.
Driving south about 20 miles from Pinnacles at an unknown speed, Giuliodibari drifted off the right side of the road at 8:30 a.m., according to Mayes. CHP Investigators could not conclude why her vehicle strayed.
Sharply steering left, she over-corrected the 2000 Hyundai Tiburon and began skidding sideways into the left lane. Pinochi’s 2002 GMC Sierra – going about 60 mph – smashed into the passenger side of her car, Mayes said. Giuliodibari died of massive head trauma.
“There was absolutely no opportunity at that point for (Pinochi) to break,” Mayes said.
Stuck together and carried by the truck’s momentum, both vehicles spun off the road and toppled down a deep roadside embankment. They landed upside down on a scattering of boulders.
There was no guardrail bordering the road at the location, but Mayes said it would not have prevented the fatality.
The driver and passenger of the pickup survived because the truck dwarfed the car – while the car was also in a vulnerable position, Mayes said.
“Big car – small car. It’s the size that counts,” Mayes said.
Another Pinnacles park ranger – also on his way to work – was driving behind Giuliodibari, according to Case. He was the first person to arrive and called for help.
“It’s a loss. It’s a sadness,” said Pinnacles education specialist Carl Brenner. “The park family is feeling it.”
At West Valley College, Giuliodibari was studying for a bachelor’s degree in park management, according to Case. Pinnacles employs 15-20 rangers during its peak season and often hires college students for seasonal work.
“She was one of the future park rangers at Pinnacles,” Case said. “That’s for sure.”
Friday, after the initial investigation was conducted, a tow truck arrived at about 10:30 a.m. to remove the two vehicles from each other – then to lift them from the embankment.
The collision was so violent – the vehicles so engaged – that a cable system used by a tow truck service had to slowly peel the vehicles apart.
About a mile stretch of the road was closed until around 1 p.m., when CHP investigators and officers finished at the accident site.
The traffic fatality was the first of 2004 in San Benito County and also the first of the year for the Hollister-Gilroy branch of the CHP, according to Mayes. There were three fatal accidents on the southeast section of Highway 25 in 2003.
The San Benito County Coroner’s Office will conduct an autopsy this week, but its day has not been determined, according to Lt. Pat Turturici.
A lesson can be learned from the tragedy, Mayes pointed out. When a driver drifts off the road, it is best – though against instinct – to take your foot off the gas and slowly steer back, she said.
“The impulse is to steer quickly,” she said.