Wasco State Prison official killed in crash

WASCO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A man died Wednesday in a chain-reaction crash in the area of Kimberlina Road and Jumper Avenue near Wasco.

The driver of a Honda Civic died after crashing into the back of a flat-bed truck and then getting rear-ended by another vehicle.

The Kern County coroner's office identified the driver as 47-year-old Steven Troy Ojeda.

He was an associate warden at nearby Wasco State Prison. He lived in Bakersfield.

"It's an extremely hard loss for our institution and for our staff," said Lt. Patrick Salgado, a spokesman for the prison. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

The California Highway Patrol said dust from nearby almond workers could have impacted visibility.

"There is reports that the area was covered in dust from people working in the fields, which might have contributed to the collision," said CHP Officer Dustin Gardenhire.

For the past few weeks, Kern County, and especially the city of Wasco, has been a little bit more dusty.

It's all part of almond season, as farmers shake off trees and sweep debris into the air.

It's especially bad this year, because of all the wildfires and smoke.

Beatris Sanders, the executive director of the Kern County Farm Bureau, said she was worried when she heard the news. She said the dust problem is something that all almond growers are aware of, but they've never seen anything like this.

"It's always a big concern with me," she said, "especially because my children are often out there on the farm."

Sanders told us that there are supposed to be precautions in place to prevent accidents from happening. Workers take safety courses and are required to post warnings on the road.

"Bare minimum, they have signs on both sides of where they're shaking," she said. "Very bright signs. Caution, dust area, please slow down."

When Eyewitness News arrived on scene, no signs were found. No one was working in the area anymore.

Sanders said almond harvesting began around the beginning of August. It's expected to continue until the end of October.

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