Three people were killed and another was critically injured early Wednesday when a speeding wrong-way car collided head-on with another on Interstate 5 north of Oceanside, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The accident occurred near the Las Pulgas rest stop about 3:10 a.m. when a car driven by 32-year-old Randall Mirza of Rancho Santa Fe--traveling north in the southbound lanes of the freeway--collided with a car driven by Julie Coleman, 18, of Clairemont.
Lenora Pasich, 19, of Mission Hills and Michelle Lanahan, 15, of South Pasadena, were passengers in the Coleman car, CHP Officer David Padilla said.
Mirza, Coleman and Pasich died instantly, according to Deputy Coroner Robert Engel.
Lanahan, a cousin of Coleman who was in the back seat of the Coleman car, was airlifted by Life Flight helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla. Officials at the hospital said Wednesday night that she was in fair condition.
Coleman and Pasich had driven to South Pasadena to bring Lanahan to San Diego for the Thanksgiving holiday and were returning when the accident occurred.
According to Padilla, the speedometer of Mirza's car was locked at 78 m.p.h., the approximate rate of speed the car was traveling. CHP officers are attempting to determine how Mirza's northbound vehicle got onto the southbound lanes of the freeway.
The accident eventually involved five cars when two cars approaching the scene sideswiped each other and struck the car of a passer-by who had parked on the side of the freeway, Padilla said. A woman and her infant daughter received minor injuries and were taken to Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside for treatment, he said.
Coleman was the daughter of Robert Coleman, regional dean of continuing education at the San Diego Community College District.
Gladys York, a friend of the Coleman family, said Julie Coleman, a graduate of Mission Bay High School, was a student at Mesa College.
Barbara Pasich said her daughter Lenora graduated from Mission Bay High School in June. She said her daughter was working full time and had recently moved into a new apartment.
Mrs. Pasich said her daughter and Julie Coleman became friends about two years ago.
"It was a good friendship," she said. "Julie had a funny sense of humor and so did Lenora."
She said her family was praying and was finding strength in their Christian faith.
"We are Christians, and I know that I will see Lenora again," she said.
Horizon Christian Fellowship is planning a memorial service, she said.
Padilla said the inside three lanes of the freeway were closed for about three hours to clear the roadway of debris from the wreckage.
The highway also had to be cleared of ammunition that was scattered from Mirza's car. Mirza was a gun dealer and co-owner of Encinitas Gun Shop. CHP officers found a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol with a holster in his car.
An autopsy, including toxicology tests, will be performed on Mirza, Engel said. Results are expected early next week.