CHP reverses blame in fatal wrong-way crash on I-5 ramp

Posted at 4:23 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-03 02:17:25-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California Highway Patrol investigators are correcting their initial findings of a fatal wrong-way crash on Interstate 5 in February.

In March, CHP said 35-year-old Justin Callahan was at fault for the fatal collision on the northbound I-5 transition ramp to westbound I-8 on Feb. 26 just before 2 a.m.

Investigators had believed Callahan, driving in a Volkswagen Jetta, was traveling eastbound in the westbound I-8 lanes when he collided with a Toyota Camry on the transition ramp — a finding Callahan's family had contested.

RELATED: Family disputes CHP's details of I-5 wrong-way crash

Callahan died at the scene while two female occupants inside the Toyota suffered major injuries.

Friday, CHP said they've now concluded the Toyota was traveling in the wrong direction when it collided with Callahan's vehicle on the ramp.

Investigators also said the driver of the Toyota, 22-year-old Lauren Freeman, was found to be under the influence at the time of the crash.

Freeman turned herself into San Diego Superior Court Friday. She faces charges including murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and felony DUI causing injury or death.

RELATED: Driver killed in wrong-way crash on I-5 in Midway area

Callahan's family said following the crash he should have been heading to Ocean Beach from Chula Vista after work at the time of the crash, not away from it.

"It doesn't make any sense," his brother, Tommy Villafranca, told 10News in March.  "Why would he get back on the freeway and get back the opposite direction?

"It takes 21 minutes just to get from his work to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. He’s still got to turn around go back, and that would take even more time, so the timeline is not working at all."

Callahan's parents, Lowell and America Callahan, sent 10News the following statement:

"We are grateful for the many hours spent by the CHP investigators and especially officer Cliinkscales, who kept us informed over the last several months, concerning the investigation. Initially, Justin had been reported by CHP as the wrong way driver on I-5 north on the transition ramp to I-8 in San Diego. This took place early Monday morning at approximately 1:55 a.m. on February 26, 2018. We are pleased that his name is finally cleared in this horrible collision that took his life instantly.
Justin was a good man as testified by the many who knew him.  We are grateful that we, Lowell and America Callahan were his parents. Justin was born 9 lbs 12 oz. on April 10, 1982. We named him Justin because he was born just in time before his mother would have need of a C-section.
From the time he was able to hold a pencil he drew pictures. He was gifted. He would win every coloring contest around. He drew and painted life-size cartoon characters on the windows of the grocery store when he was in grade school and when 15 he was invited to do the same at one of the schools. At 18 he moved to San Diego and attended San Diego State University where he graduated with a graphic arts degree. He was an incredibly gifted artist and excelled at most things.
He loved the ocean and lived at Ocean Beach for 17 years. He loved sports of all sorts. Once while windsurfing a shark swam by him. Then one day driving in his car he died. Part of us died when that tragedy occurred. America, Justin's mother spoke with him and texted him many times each week. About a month before he died he told her that he wanted to get married have children and move back to Wheatland where he had spent most of his childhood from age 5.
Tears are flowing as we write this and nothing will bring him back to us. All we have now is our memories. Parents should not have to bury their children. We buried our daughter in 2005."  

"Justin was a beautiful caring soul. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it!" Justin's girlfriend, Lyndsey Hartley, said.