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Passenger Dies In Fiery I-80 Crash After SUV Swerves Into Wall Trying To Avoid A Raccoon

SAN PABLO (CBS SF) -- A driver trying to avoid a raccoon that ran onto westbound I-80 early Saturday, lost control of his vehicle, slamming into a freeway wall, igniting a fireball that engulfed the SUV and killed a passenger.

CHP officer Curtis Glace said his agency got 911 calls reporting a fiery crash at the San Pablo Dam Road exit at 12:31 a.m.

Arriving officers and firefighters encountered a vehicle completely engulfed in flames and a distraught driver who told them a passenger was still inside the vehicle.

"We got a call of a vehicle that collided with a wall and was on fire," Glace said. "Our officers responded and we discovered a vehicle... It was a van or SUV type vehicle. The driver was able to give us a statement as he collided with the wall, he swerved to avoid an animal in the roadway. He was able to exit the vehicle. Unfortunately, his passenger was not able to exit the vehicle and he was not able to retrieve him out."

The flames were too intense for crews to attempt a rescue.

Glace said the driver told officers he was going about 55 mph when a raccoon ran in front of his vehicle.

"There was no indication of any skid marks," said Glace of the suddenness of the crash.

The dead man's name was not released pending coroner's identification and notification of the next of kin. The driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Glace said the accident remains under investigation, but drugs or alcohol did not play a role in the crash. Three westbound lanes of the freeway were blocked for several hours as officers investigated the crash.

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