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Driver was Corona del Mar track star

Preliminary police report in Saturday's 10-vehicle pileup, crash said Julia Allen was driving upward of 90 mph.

January 17, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com
  • Julie Allen was a track and field and cross-country standout at Corona del Mar High. She later competed at Stanford University.
Julie Allen was a track and field and cross-country standout… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

A former track star at Corona del Mar High School was driving upward of 90 mph on West Coast Highway when her car swerved into oncoming traffic and triggered a 10-vehicle pileup that killed her and two other people, a family friend who has seen the preliminary police report said Monday.

Julia Allen, 27, who went by Julie, was driving eastbound Saturday afternoon on a narrow stretch of Coast Highway along Mariner's Mile, when she broadsided a pickup truck turning left in front of her. The Newport Beach resident's tan-colored Ford Taurus went airborne and landed on a motorcycle and other cars facing west at the Riverside Avenue stoplight.

One witness reported seeing Allen's car airborne before it reached the intersection.

On Sunday morning, when Corona del Mar High School track and field Coach Bill Sumner returned home from a morning run, he knew one of "his kids" was in trouble.

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His voicemail inbox had lots of messages from people wishing him well and asking if they could help and if he was OK. He didn't know why at first.

But when he read the morning paper and learned that the goodwill came after the accident involving Allen, one of his former runners and a CIF champion, he didn't want to believe it.

"I just didn't want it to be our Julie," he said. "At the same time, you start calling her parents, her parents' friends, people who'd seen her in the last couple of days trying to figure out it wasn't her. But everywhere I turned…"

Police said Allen was driving east on West Coast Highway toward Riverside Avenue at about 2:45 p.m. when her Taurus veered into the westbound lanes and hit a Toyota Prius and a white Ford Taurus.

Allen's car kept going and slammed into a Nissan Titan before barreling directly into the passenger side of a white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck turning left on eastbound West Coast Highway from Riverside Avenue, investigators said. The collision instantly killed the Tacoma's two passengers: Christopher De La Cruz, 49, of Laguna Niguel, and his mother, Linda Burnett, 69, of Santa Ana.

The motorcycle rider was critically injured but is expected to survive. Allen died during the crash.

The coach has been in recent contact with his former star.

Sumner recalled Allen telling him over dinner two weeks ago: "Things are going great. I'm loving life."

"She was starting to look for a new job," Sumner said.

Allen had a full scholarship to Stanford University after high school, and competed there briefly before moving back to Southern California. She was dealing with unspecified personal issues in recent years, police officials and friends said.

A toxicology report from the county coroner is expected in six to eight weeks.

Police said it's too early to tell which factors, other than the rate of speed, played a role in the crash.

"What was different about Julie was everywhere she went she lit the place up," Sumner said. "She kept everyone engaged. She was always kidding. I kid, but she would kid light and sweet and innocent."

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