Five people were injured in Santa Maria Monday when a pickup truck slammed into a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department prisoner-transport van that then careened into another inmate vehicle.

Maria Ponce-Rodriguez, the driver of a Toyota pickup, was eastbound on Betteravia Road when she allegedly ran a red light about 9:50 a.m. at Miller Street.

Her vehicle hit a county sheriff’s transport van that was southbound on Miller and driven by Deputy Matt Moreno, according to Sgt. Mark Streker of the Santa Maria Police Department. 

“In one of the strangest coincidences you’ll see in a long time, there also was a Santa Barbara County jail transport van sitting in the northbound Miller traffic waiting for the light to turn green,” Streker said. “When the Toyota truck hit the transport van, that van redirected into the opposing lane and struck its own counterpart.”

The southbound van had two inmates in it at the time of the accident.

In all, three people, including two inmates plus Ponce-Rodriguez, were taken to Marian Regional Medical Center for treatment. Two other people refused treatment at the scene, according Battalion Chief Mike Barneich of the Santa Maria Fire Department.

Two fire engines, a battalion chief and three American Medical Response ambulances responded to the incident.

One of the city’s major intersections, Betteravia Road and Miller Street, were both heavily congested for nearly an hour after the accident, Streker added.

The pickup driver likely will be cited for allegedly running a red light, Streker said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at