LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities have arrested a driver after she allegedly sped through a red light Thursday and plowed into other vehicles in a crowded intersection, killing a pregnant woman, a child and three other adults in a fiery crash.
The California Highway Patrol on Friday said Nicole Lorraine Linton, who sustained moderate injuries in the collision, was taken into custody on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Charges are expected to be filed with prosecutors.
The coroner’s office identified one of the victims Friday as Asherey Ryan, a 23-year-old pregnant woman from Los Angeles. Her unborn child was listed as “baby boy Ryan” in online coroner's records.
Two other women and a man, as well as a boy, were killed but their names were not made public Friday.
Shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a Mercedes-Benz sedan caused the crash involving as many as six cars near a gas station in the unincorporated Windsor Hills about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of downtown LA, according to the California Highway Patrol.
“It was definitely one of the most horrific crashes that we’ve seen,” CHP Officer Franco Pepi told The Associated Press on Friday.
The Mercedes-Benz sedan never appeared to brake as it flew through the intersection and Pepi said detectives are looking into whether Linton had a medical episode or was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Several people were flung from the cars and two vehicles caught fire. Television reports showed the blackened and mangled cars, as well as a child's car seat among the debris covering the street.
Video showed the Mercedes careening through an intersection, striking at least two cars that exploded in flames and were sent hurtling onto a sidewalk, winding up against the gas station's corner sign. A fiery streak led to one car. One vehicle was torn in half.
The car was going at least 50 mph (80 kph) as it raced through the crowded intersection, Pepi said Thursday. Eight people were taken to the hospital, including Linton.
It was not immediately clear whether Linton, 37, had an attorney who could comment on her behalf.
The other victims had minor injuries and included a 33-year-old woman and six children ranging in age from 13 months old to 15 years old, Pepi said.
A memorial grew outside the intersection Friday, as mourners left flowers and candles in memory of the dead.
Henry Sanchez, who works at nearby Sinclair Gas, was at the indoor register when he heard “the loudest noise I’ve ever heard.”
"The sound of it, it was gut-wrenching,” he told the AP on Friday. “It was like two trains hitting each other, metal on metal.”
He saw people rush to the cars to offer aid but they were kept back by the flames until firefighters arrived.
“I remember everybody trying to get the fire down and help people out as much as they could, but nobody could do anything,” he said.
Veronica Esquival told KTLA-TV that she covered her head for protection as debris flew.
“All of the sudden, a baby literally flew from the middle of the intersection to the middle of the gas station and landed right on the floor in front of me,” Esquival said. “One of the workers came and saw me with the baby and took the baby out of my hands. … Somebody tried to resuscitate the baby but the baby was gone.”
Debra Jackson, told KCBS-TV she was about to get out of her car to pump gas when she heard a big explosion.
“The flames just went over everybody,” Jackson said. “The flames went over my whole car and they told me to jump out of my car ... because I was trying to get out of my car, to go to the gas pump. And I jumped out of my car and just left my car sitting right there.”
Associated Press Photojournalist Damian Dovarganes in Los Angeles and News Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.