Investigators are still piecing together the details of a fiery fatal crash Thursday night that claimed the lives of three men and one woman on Interstate 5, near Calgrove Boulevard, but suspect high speed and possibly drugs may have been contributing factors.
“The ID is pending on all four decedents,” Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, said late Friday afternoon.
“Excessive speed, alcohol and/or drugs may be a contributing factor for the cause of this collision,” California Highway Patrol Officer J. Nichols, investigating the crash, wrote in his report.
“However, a thorough investigation is ongoing,” Nichols noted.
A couple of minutes before 7:30 p.m. Thursday, a black van was traveling north on I-5, north on Weldon Canyon Road, at a high rate of speed, he wrote in his report.
A white big rig Freightliner truck with an attached trailer was stopped on the right shoulder of the northbound lanes of the interstate, north of Weldon Canyon Road, ahead of the van, a black Dodge Caravan.
The driver of the Caravan drove into the back of the stopped big rig.
As a result of this collision, the van driver succumbed to his injuries, as did three passengers in the van, Nichols said in his report.
“(The collision) occurred at 7:28 p.m. on the northbound 5 at Calgrove Boulevard,” said Officer Patrick Kimball of the CHP Traffic Management Center at the crash scene. “It was reported as an SUV versus semi.”
The big rig was completely pulled over onto the right shoulder of the freeway when the Dodge Caravan collided with it, according to CHP Officer Josh Greengard, who was still on scene during the investigation around 11:50 p.m. Thursday. Both vehicles burst into flames.
The driver of the white Freightliner, identified as a resident of Merced, suffered no injuries as a result of the collision.
The Caravan caught fire in the collision, sparking a fire in the big rig’s trailer. Flames from both vehicles spread to about an eighth of an acre of nearby brush, which was quickly extinguished.
The fire was extinguished by Los Angeles County firefighters, who remained at the scene for several hours to make sure the fire was completely out.
Coroner’s officials are in the process of notifying the families of the deceased.
The crash prompted the closure of of three northbound lanes, while the #1 and #2 lanes – commonly referred to as the fast lane and the lane next to it – remained open during the CHP investigation.
“A SigAlert was issued at 7:58 p.m. for all lanes except the No. 1 lane for an unknown duration,” Kimball said at approximately 8:45 p.m. Thursday.
Officers initially reported two occupants in the vehicle. Once the fire was cleared, two additional bodies were found by officials with the coroner’s office, Greengard said.
Any witnesses are encouraged to contact the CHP’s Newhall Office at (661) 294-5540.