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Accident leaves 3 dead

A 10-car crash causes havoc on West Coast Highway in Newport Beach. In addition to casualties, one is critically injured.

January 15, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow )

Three people were killed and one critically injured in a 10-car crash at Riverside Avenue and West Coast Highway in Newport Beach on Saturday afternoon, police said.

Traffic investigators were expected to work through the night piecing together what started the crash at about 2:43 p.m. The scene stretched hundreds of feet across West Coast Highway, with glass and pieces of the cars strewn across the asphalt. Police closed the street between Newport Boulevard and Tustin Avenue.

Officials had not identified the dead as of Saturday night, pending notification of next of kin. No children were among the dead or injured. Two people were taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian with minor injuries and one person was taken to Santa Ana's Western Medical Center in critical condition.

"It was a wall of cars coming at us," said Sam Schudi, who's from Minneapolis.

Schudi was sitting in the left-turn lane facing east on West Coast Highway at Riverside Avenue when a gold Ford Taurus came flying at his vehicle, with the Taurus's rear end landing on his car's front hood. Witnesses reported seeing a second car airborne, too.

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"It plowed into everybody," said Jason Girvin of the Taurus.

Witnesses said the Taurus was airborne for more than 50 feet before crashing into several other cars and a motorcycle. The motorcycle rider was the critically injured victim, officials said.

Girvin, who lives in Costa Mesa, was facing east in the left-hand turn lane waiting to turn onto northbound Riverside Avenue when the Taurus flew by him from behind.

"It's like, what the hell is that?" he remembered thinking as the undercarriage of the Taurus flashed by his window. Girvin was on his way home from the beach with his three children in the car.

"How do you go from a beautiful day to this?" he said. "Their lives are gone. It's just so sad."

Three vehicles came to a rest on their sides, most of them near each other at the Coast Highway and Riverside intersection. One white vehicle, which witnesses said was the first to collide with the Taurus, was more than 100 yards west on the highway with damage to its driver side.

Costa Mesa police and firefighters assisted in the call. Investigators likely won't figure out what caused the crash until at least Sunday, said Newport Beach police Lt. Bill Hartford.

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