UPDATE: The CHP now reports that the wrong way driver has 2 previous DUI convictions and was driving on a suspended license. Under California law it is likely he will be charged with murder due to his previous convictions. His immigration status is unknown.
A pair of California Highway Patrol Officers from the Westminster Office were sitting on the Gene Autry offramp of Interstate 5 monitoring traffic around 2 a.m. when they noticed a Toyota Camry driving towards them at high speed going the wrong way on the freeway. The car was traveling an estimated 120 m.p.h. and driving southbound in the northbound carpool lane of the freeway.
The Officers immediately alerted their dispatcher and other CHP units and entered the freeway on the southbound side and attempted to keep sight of the wrong way driver.
Officers from the CHPs Santa Ana Office were alerted and also spotted the car traveling the wrong way in the northbound carpool lane at high speed. At least one CHP unit activated its’ red and blue lights and used its’ spot light to try to get the drivers attention.
The car continued southbound in the northbound lanes at very high speeds. A Santa Ana CHP unit entering the southbound 5 from Grand Avenue in Santa Ana spotted the car as it entered the carpool flyover that connects the northbound 55 to the northbound 5.
They observed the wrong way driver as he slammed head on into a Ford Mustang occupied by a man and a woman without braking, killing its’ driver instantly and critically injuring the female passenger. The wrong way drivers’ car continued for several hundred feet before coming to a stop on the carpool flyover with the driver trapped inside.
CHP Officers from both the Westminster and Santa Ana offices arrived quickly and sprung into action and attempted to get to the victims inside both cars.
Firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority arrived and used the jaws of life to free the female who was trapped in the Mustang. She was extricated from the mangled wreckage and transported to nearby UCI Medical Center in Orange in critical condition.
Firefighters also had to use the jaws of life and other cutting tools to free the wrong way driver from his car. He was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana also in critical condition. CHP Officers placed the wrong way driver under arrest for suspected DUI and felony manslaughter. A search warrant was obtained so a sample of his blood could be taken as evidence.
The carpool flyover was closed for about 4 hours as the CHP investigated the crash and CalTrans crews cleaned up significant debris from the high speed head on crash.
CHP Sergeant Todd Kovaletz from the CHPs Santa Ana Office said “wrong way drivers typically drive in the carpool or fast lane and its a good idea to look ahead and avoid distractions, as well as try to avoid driving in the left lanes late at night”.