By Liz Weeker
Updated: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13.
A man died Wednesday afternoon across the street from Santa Clara after suffering a heart attack and crashing into a truck, authorities said.
Santa Clara resident James Steekel, 61, was driving a minivan northbound on The Alameda when he lost control of his vehicle.
Steekel drove across the center island at the Bellomy Street intersection before veering into the southbound lane. After narrowly missing two pedestrians, the minivan crashed head-on into a pick-up truck stopped at the signal like.
“The car just flew through the air,” said senior Medley Crank, who saw the accident while walking back from the Malley Fitness Center with a friend.
After the collison, the minivan’s wheels continued to turn, causing the front right tire to ignite, which set the vehicle on fire.
Crank said the truck driver left his vehicle after the accident and dragged Steekel out of the burning minivan. Steekel had no pulse, and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Police pronounced him dead at the scene.
Officers confirmed that the truck driver was an off duty Santa Clara fire captain, but did not release his name. He was checked for injuries and released from the scene.
“I was in shock,” said junior Rachel Franco, who also saw the crash. “I called 911.”
Police said Steekel suffered a heart attack, but did not indicate whether the heart attack or subsequent collision caused his death.
No one else was injured in the accident.
The collision occurred at the same intersection where a May accident left a pedestrian in critical condition.
Note: Story originally posted July 12, 2006.