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Fiery Crash Closes All Lanes on I-405; 6 Die in 4 Other Accidents

March 01, 1987|MARK I. PINSKY | Times Staff Writer

A fiery crash that closed the San Diego Freeway in both directions Saturday night provided a dramatic climax to a series of weekend accidents that left six people dead, including three teen-agers whose Mercedes-Benz crossed into oncoming traffic in San Juan Capistrano and collided with a Ford Mustang on Friday night.

A collision involving a recreational vehicle and a double gasoline tank truck on the southbound San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405) at Springdale Street in Westminster blocked the freeway in both directions from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m. Saturday, when the northbound lanes were opened.

No one was injured, authorities said, when a recreational vehicle driven by a tourist from Canada, trying to get to Disneyland, attempted to make a sudden lane change at the Springdale Street exit.

880 Gallons of Gas

The tanker, carrying 880 gallons of Texaco gasoline for Cook and Coly of Long Beach, then jackknifed, overturned and burst into flames close to a number of homes, which had to be evacuated. The driver of the truck, identified by the California Highway Patrol as Edwardo Chivira, 37, of Whittier, was not injured in the crash, which sent flames shooting 250 feet into the air.

Westminster police identified the driver of the recreational vehicle as George Raimbault, and his passenger as Valerie Baylis, both of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A Police Department dispatcher said that the couple had gotten lost while trying to get to Disneyland and tried to get off at Springdale. Neither occupant of the recreational vehicle was injured, and the couple were able to drive away from the crash.

Neither driver was cited by the CHP, but spokesman Bruce Mulligan said the investigation is continuing.

A Westminster fire official said he expected that southbound traffic would resume on the San Diego Freeway sometime before this morning.

Fire companies from Westminster, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, Cypress and Orange County responded to the fire.

Pete Bonasso, of 5911 Abraham St., a street ending in a cul-de-sac at the freeway, was sitting in his living room when he heard the tank truck explode.

"I took off," he said, as Huntington Beach firefighters perched on his roof, not far from the still-burning tank truck.

"We've had quite a few accidents," he said of the stretch of freeway yards from his house.

Bonasso said that he has complained to CALTRANS numerous times about the hazard, and finally built his own six-foot, cinder-block wall for protection.

Pursued by Police

"That's the only thing that saved the house" Saturday night, he said.

At the same time traffic was blocked on the San Diego Freeway, traffic was also blocked on the Costa Mesa Freeway (California 55) when a motorcyclist lost control of his vehicle and was struck by a car in the northbound lanes near MacArthur Boulevard. Jack Louis Merlin, 31, of Tustin was being pursued by Costa Mesa police at speeds reaching speeds in excess of 80 m.p.h. when he crashed. Caltrans briefly blocked several lanes of the freeway as a result of the incident.

Merlin was admitted to Western Medical Center--Santa Ana where he was listed in stable condition, and was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, attempting to evade an officer and driving on a suspended license, according to Costa Mesa Police Sgt. John Fitzpatrick.

Traffic accidents in Orange County killed six people this weekend, including three teen-agers in a Mercedes-Benz that crossed into oncoming traffic in San Juan Capistrano on Friday night and collided with a Ford Mustang.

The dead included the driver of the Mercedes, John Christopher Quinton, 16, of Laguna Niguel, and two passengers, Larry Klebusits, 18, of Laguna Niguel, and Alison Veronica Babcock, 16, of Irvine.

Two other passengers in the car were taken to Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo with injuries: Peter McGraw, 17, of San Juan Capistrano was listed in satisfactory condition Saturday, and Christopher Medhurst, 17, of Laguna Niguel was reported in serious condition.

Students in Car

A number of those in the car were students at Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, according to a friend, Todd Bodell.

Three passengers in the Mustang were taken to Mission Community Hospital: Sandy Donahue, 35, of Fountain Valley was in critical condition Saturday; her daughter, Casey, 8, was in serious condition, and the driver of the car, Howard Hayden, 34, of Capistrano Beach was listed in serious condition.

Lt. Richard J. Olsen of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said Quinton lost control of the 1983 Mercedes about 10:30 p.m. while southbound on Camino Capistrano just north of Junipero Serra Road. The car slid sideways into the oncoming lanes, where it was hit broadside by the Mustang and rolled over.

Firefighters had to use hydraulic prying tools to extricate the dead and injured.

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