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Boy hailed as hero in fatal crash
Oscar Martinez saw it all.

The 12-year-old Mae Hensley Junior High School student saw Larry Dale Duke's pickup careening toward friends crossing Darwin Avenue at Fowler Road. He couldn't do anything to save Danielle Tarancon and others in front from being hit. But his quick actions helped save at least three other friends behind him from walking into the deadly path of the pickup.

At Monday's Ceres City Council meeting Oscar was hailed as a hero and given accolades of the Ceres Police Department that investigated the deadly Feb. 9 crash. Tarancon, 13, was killed and two other students - Nancy Zavala and Jessica Garcia -were seriously injured. Two other girls sustained minor injuries.

Officer John King said if Oscar had not noticed the accelerating raised pickup and not halted and threw up his arms to push back others, at least one more student would have been killed or injured.

"He didn't just save himself but saved others too," said King.

Martinez was also praised for giving one of the best and most accurate counts of what happened.

"He recalled details realistically and that really assisted in our investigation," said King. "Even adults will fill in details in blank spaces if it seems logical to them. Oscar provided straight-forward answers to assist us."

Police said varying accounts from numerous witnesses complicated and delayed the investigation. In some cases, rumors were repeated and embellished.

Duke, who ran through the stop sign and thereby hit the children, was later arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter.

The Stanislaus County district attorney's office has charged Duke with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Duke passed a breath test for alcohol after the crash, but said his blood tested positive for "chemicals."

If the court finds him guilty, Duke could be sentenced to four, six or 10 years in state prison.

Duke has a less than stellar driving record. He was the driver of a Peterbilt dump truck who ran into the rear of a Ford Expedition on Sept. 17, 2010 while traveling northbound Highway 99 near Faith Home Road overpass.