Elderly couple killed in Christmas Day crash in Oceanside identified

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - An 80-year-old couple who died in a fiery crash on Christmas Day in North San Diego County has been identified.

Ruth and Jose Cortez were the passengers in one of the vehicles involved in the collision. They were fatally injured after the vehicle they were riding in collided with another car that had already been in a crash.

The Cortezes were reportedly on their way home from a Christmas party.

RELATED: Three killed in a fiery Christmas Day crash on I-5 in Oceanside

A neighbor told 10News the couple were deacons at Paradise Valley Seventh Adventist Church. She said they volunteered every week, helping to distribute food to about 500 needy families in the community.

"They're going to be missed. Highly missed," neighbor Darlene Searmur told 10News.

The driver of the car the Cortezes were in was injured and is recovering at Scripps La Jolla Wednesday. The driver is a relative of theirs.

According to CHP officials, a vehicle was involved in a crash with attenuator barrels along southbound Interstate 5 near State Route 76 at about 7:20 p.m. Monday. After striking the barrels, the vehicle became airborne and reentered the highway. The vehicle the Cortezes were traveling in then rear-ended the car.

The driver of the rear-ended vehicle died after the car erupted in flames. A third car sideswiped one of the vehicles involved in the fiery crash as well, according to CHP.

Investigators are still looking into whether the driver of the vehicle that initially crashed into barrels was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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