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

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - Three people are dead after a fiery crash on Interstate 5 in Oceanside during the Christmas travel rush Monday.

A series of collisions leading to the deaths began at about 7:20 p.m. in the southbound lanes of I-5 just north of State Route 76, according to CHP.

A 1996 Nissan sedan was about to exit I-5 at SR-76 when it suddenly tried to re-enter the interstate, witnesses told CHP. The driver of the vehicle, identified as an Escondido man, struck attenuator barrels and damaged his car. After the collision with the attenuators, the driver moved from the right shoulder into the #1 lane and stopped.

It's not clear why the man moved his vehicle into the #1 lane.

CHP said a second Nissan traveling in the #1 lane approached the damaged vehicle and struck it, causing the original vehicle to erupt into flames. The second Nissan was a 2016 model sedan driven by a 65-year-old woman. There were also two 80-year-old passengers in the vehicle. A family member identified them as Jose and Ruth Cortez of Paradise Hills.

The driver of the 1996 Nissan was killed at the scene. The passengers of the 2016 Nissan were also fatally injured, according to CHP.

The driver of the 2016 Nissan was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital with serious injuries. 

CHP investigators are still looking into the cause of the initial crash.

A third collision occurred when a 2018 Toyota approached the scene and sideswiped one of the vehicles involved in the crash. CHP said that collision only caused property damage.

All lanes of the southbound I-5 were blocked for two hours after the wreck. All lanes of the freeway were opened by 9 p.m.

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