Silicon Valley radio astrologer Deepak Kumar – also known as Master Deepak ji – was killed Sept. 5 morning in a car crash near Fresno, Calif., along with four others.
The Fresno County Coroner’s office has identified only two of the victims in the crash: Indian Americans Vinod Dhammy, 66; and Kuldip Kumar, 64, both of Union City, Calif.
Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno County Coroner, told India-West that the office was still attempting to identify the three remaining victims. He could not confirm Master Deepak’s death.
“They were all burned very badly,” said Botti. “We are having to rely on DNA and dental records to identify the remaining victims,” he added. Members of the family have also been contacted to identify the remaining three victims.
Gwen Do, a spokeswoman for Desi 1170 am, where Master Deepak ji conducted his twice-weekly radio show, confirmed to India-West that the Indian American astrologer was one of the victims of the car crash. Several postings on social media platforms also confirmed that Master Deepak had been killed in the incident.
According to a report obtained by India-West from the Central Division of the California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the incident, on Sept. 5 morning, the driver of a 2009 Mercedes – who has not been identified – failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Manning Road and SR 33 in the town of Mendota, about 36 miles from Fresno.
The driver of the Mercedes drove directly into the left side of a 2013 Peterbuilt big rig, causing it to overturn. The CHP has identified the driver of the big rig as Wayne Fletcher, 58, but had not named the driver of the Mercedes as of Sept. 6.
Fletcher, who was transporting gravel, sustained major injuries and was immediately transported to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he is listed in critical condition.
CHP officers on the scene were able to remove two passengers from the Mercedes before it caught fire and erupted in flames. All five occupants of the car sustained fatal injuries, according to the CHP.
The collision is still under investigation. Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor, according to the CHP report.
CHP Sgt. Matt Zulim told ABC 30 that the collision was one of the worst wrecks he has ever seen. “When the trailer of the big rig landed on top of the Mercedes, the Mercedes caught fire and was fully engulfed,” he said.
Do of Desi 1170 AM told India-West that Master Deepak had conducted his radio show – “Mahakaal Living with Master Deepak ji” – every Monday and Thursday from 2-4 p.m. for the past seven years. “It was a very popular show,” said Do, noting that the call-in lines, which allowed listeners to contact the astrologer on air with their questions, were always busy throughout the program. “He was very well loved,” she said.
Desi 1170 AM conducted a day-long tribute to Master Deepak ji Sept. 6, asking listeners to share their reminiscences of the radio host. Do said Kumar had no wife or children, but did have a nephew who lives in the Bay Area.
Desi 1170 AM posted a statement on Facebook. “We are saddened to announce that Master Deepak Ji, our dear friend and an integral part of our radio family and community, has passed away yesterday morning. Once we acquire more details regarding a public funeral or the incident, we will announce the news on Desi 1170 AM.”
“Our hearts – heavy and pained – are grieving for Master Deepak Ji's family and the family members and friends of the four gentlemen who lost their lives in the car crash. Master Deepak Ji, your Desi 1170 AM Radio family misses your blessed soul and warm presence.”
According to his profile on mahakaalliving.com, Kumar began practicing Vedic astrology at the age of 15, and met with gurus and sadhus in India and Nepal. He studied in New Delhi at the All India Federation of Astrologers.
In his practice in the U.S., where he lived for 25 years, Kumar combined the principles of Western and Vedic astrology.
The families of Vinod Dhammy and Kuldip Kumar could not be reached for comment.