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Orange County Digest

Westminster : Garden Grove Man Held in Freeway Crash Death

June 27, 1987

A Garden Grove man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and felony drunk driving Friday after a high-speed collision that left one man dead and two cars piled on top of each other on the San Diego Freeway, authorities said.

Thomas S. Batista, 22, was southbound on the freeway just north of Westminster Boulevard when he collided with a Pinto at 1:40 a.m., California Highway patrol Officer Paul Caldwell said. The Pinto driver, Charles H. Wyrick, of Whittier, whose age was not released, was unhurt, but Batista's passenger, Ronald Lewis Chunovich, 23, of Roseville, died at the scene, Caldwell said.

Batista was taken to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital where he was listed in critical condition Friday evening.

Batista's 1975 Chevrolet Camaro was going 120 m.p.h. in the fast lane when he abruptly changed lanes to the right to pass another car and his Camaro spun out of control, the CHP said. The Camaro's rear struck the 1977 Ford Pinto from behind, and both cars then vaulted over and through the center median with the Pinto landing on top of the Camaro in the freeway's northbound lanes.

Chunovich died on impact with the guardrail, the CHP said.

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