A eucalyptus tree that fell across the southbound lanes of US Highway 101 in wet and windy conditions early in the morning Dec. 11 caused three vehicles to crash, killing two people and injuring four others, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officers responded to a 3:25am report of the crash near Cannon Road, just south of Mission San Juan Bautista. Upon arrival, officers found a large eucalyptus tree that had fallen on top of a Toyota Prius driven by 22-year-old Jaqueline Melendez, with the tree blocking the both southbound lanes. 

Melendez suffered major injuries and a passenger, 22-year-old Megaly Cortes-Medina, suffered moderate injuries.

Sometime after the tree fell and the first collision, an SUV in the left lane came upon the scene and hit the tree. The 50-year-old Arizona man behind the wheel of the SUV died of his injuries.

Then a BMW driven by 23-year-old Brianna Giselle Avina, of Gonzales, in the left lane also hit the tree. A 28-year-old passenger, of Gonzales, died of his injuries. 

Avina suffered major injuries, as did another passenger, 24-year-old Anthony Solis of Gonzales.

The CHP did not release the names of the two men who died.

The southbound lanes of 101 were closed for approximately four hours due to the investigation. The CHP report indicated that drug and/or alcohol impairment do not appear to be a factor in these collisions. 

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