Three people killed in a fiery collision south of Gardnerville on Sunday night have been identified.
Trooper Larry Barnes of the Nevada Highway Patrol said the victims are Norman Sharkey Jr., 36, of Gardnerville; Gabriel Ortega, 27; and his father, Eugene Leroy Sandoval, 59, both of Henderson, Colo.
According to Barnes, Sharkey was possibly heading to Bishop to a rodeo in a 1996 GMC pickup when for unknown reasons he crossed the center line south of China Springs on Highway 395.
The truck struck head-on a Swift tractor-trailer carrying driver Ortega and passenger Sandoval about 5:49 p.m. Barnes said reports that Sharkey was attempting to pass another vehicle in a no-pass zone were incorrect.
"He was not trying to pass anyone. The person who was right in front of the semi said he just came over the line, and she had to swerve to avoid him," Barnes said.
The impact of the collision caused the vehicles to burst into flames. Sharkey was ejected; Ortega and Sandoval were trapped.
The fire ignited nearby brush, burning about five acres.
Diesel fuel from the semi and some shotgun shells in the pickup truck contributed to the intensity of the fire.
"I was the first trooper on scene, and when I got there, everything was still up in flames.
"It took about 45 minutes before we could get up to the vehicles and see anything," said Barnes.
The semi was carrying Halloween costumes for a Sparks K-Mart store.
"As far as the damage to the vehicles and the people hurt, that's probably the worst accident I've had to work," Barnes said.
n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.