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1 Dead, 4 Hurt in 5-Car Crash : Accidents: Driver who reportedly sped through a red light is killed when car flips over in Tustin intersection. It is the worst of several collisions on an especially dangerous day on local roads and freeways.

October 21, 1994|KEN ELLINGWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TUSTIN — A man who apparently ran a stoplight died Thursday in a five-car crash here that left four other drivers injured--the worst in a series of morning rush-hour accidents around the county.

Police said Scott Ryan Hoffman, 21, of Villa Park was speeding north through a red light on Tustin Ranch Road when his Ford Explorer struck a car crossing the intersection and flipped over onto a third vehicle. Two other cars were also damaged in the 8 a.m. crash, which forced the closure of freeway on-ramps nearby as well as streets leading to the El Camino Real intersection where the crash took place.

Rescuers used hydraulic equipment to free one of the drivers, Nahid Harvey, 33, of Lake Forest. Harvey, who police said apparently was not wearing a seat belt, suffered internal injuries and was placed in the intensive-care unit at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana. Police said she was in stable condition.

Three other drivers were treated and released from Tustin Hospital Medical Center: Keith Blood, 45, of Anaheim; Valry Pendergraft, 53, of Santa Ana; and Brenda Holm, 36, of Tustin.

A witness said she was about to cross the intersection on her bicycle when she noticed the Explorer bearing down.

"They were honking. Then they hit and went all over," said Sarah Remington, a 13-year-old Tustin resident who was riding to A.G. Currie Middle School.

"He was going really fast. I was, like, why is he going so fast?" the schoolgirl said. "I could be dead right now."

Police said a preliminary investigation indicated Hoffman was traveling at least 60 m.p.h. in a 40-m.p.h. zone when his vehicle struck Harvey's car. The Explorer flipped and landed on the hood of a BMW stopped at the light. Remington and another witness said the Explorer, its cabin crushed, briefly caught fire after the collision.

Harvey's car careened into two other stopped cars before coming to a stop on the sidewalk, with Harvey pinned inside.

"It really is amazing, with all the damage to the cars, that there was only one fatality," said Police Capt. Steve Foster.

In Costa Mesa, a motorist was seriously injured after her car struck a mattress on the Costa Mesa Freeway and flipped over. In Westminster, a woman who fell asleep in her stalled car set off a minor crash involving three other cars near a freeway entrance on Beach Boulevard. And a five-car fender-bender on the San Diego Freeway in Huntington Beach slowed northbound traffic for more than an hour near Beach Boulevard. No injuries were reported in that accident.

Marilyn Hess Cross, 67, of Costa Mesa suffered multiple fractures when her car overturned on the Costa Mesa Freeway, and was in critical but stable condition in the intensive-care unit at UCI Medical Center in Orange, according to hospital officials.

Most of the other accidents were minor, but the mishaps kept authorities busy.

"It's bright and sunny. It's not even raining out there," said CHP Officer Joan Rivas.

Rivas said the sleeping woman was waiting for help after she ran out of gas on Beach Boulevard. Three cars were involved in fender-benders as traffic slowed to avoid the stalled vehicle.

Officers had to awaken the woman by pounding on her window, Rivas said.

"This was even after the accident occurred," Rivas said.

The collisions continued into the afternoon Thursday, as a Long Beach police officer, en route to work from his home in Riverside County at 2:20 p.m., radioed the California Highway Patrol that he had just been passed on the Riverside Freeway by a man going about 100 m.p.h.

The police officer chased the 1994 Acura into Orange County past Weir Canyon Road, where the Acura driver lost control, crossed four lanes of traffic and became airborne. The car landed in the Santa Ana River bed, critically injuring the driver, identified by the CHP as John Nelson, 25, of Norco.

Three hours later, a 26-year-old Corona del Mar man was critically injured when the mountain bike he was riding was struck by a pickup truck at Jamboree Road and East Coast Highway in Newport Beach.

The cyclist, who has not been identified, was not wearing a helmet and sustained severe head injuries, according to Newport Beach Sgt. Ken Cowell. The cyclist was airlifted to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, where he was in critical condition late Thursday.

Traffic was blocked on three of the four westbound lanes of Coast Highway for more than two hours.

The driver of the pickup was treated at the scene for cuts. No one was cited, Cowell said.

In Laguna Hills, 73-year-old Mary Gridley was critically injured when the car she was riding in collided with another car at El Paseo and Cabot Road at 7:17 p.m. No one else was seriously injured.

Times staff writer Mark I. Pinsky contributed to this report.

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