GAVIOTA, Calif. — A BMW being chased by the Highway Patrol drove head-on into freeway traffic north of Santa Barbara on Friday, resulting in three deaths and nine injuries, the CHP said.
The red BMW crossed a paved divider and struck three northbound cars on U.S. 101 after a chase that reached speeds of 90 m.p.h., Lt. Robert Delmese said.
"He . . . caught me in the right front," one driver who escaped with minor injuries told TV reporters. "The air bags exploded and all I saw was white powder or smoke and that was it, and I lost control because the whole front end went out of my car."
The BMW's driver and people in two other cars were pronounced dead at the scene about 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. Traffic was backed up for miles before the northbound lanes were reopened, authorities said.
Killed were Patricia Lee Almengor, 47, of Santa Ana, who was a passenger in one car, and Edmond Morrow Borromeo, 53, of Panorama City, who was driving a van.
The BMW had Arizona license plates but the identity of the driver was unknown because no identification was found on his body, according to the Santa Barbara County coroner's office.
A man, two women and a girl were admitted in critical condition to Goleta Valley Community Hospital, said hospital spokesman Brent Sutton.
"We're talking multiple head injuries with fractures, major facial injuries and one woman has internal injuries," he said.
Five people were taken to Lompoc Hospital with less severe injuries. Two women and a man were treated and released, while a 64-year-old man and a woman were expected to remain at least overnight for observation, but their injuries were not life-threatening, said Linda Cannon, director of nursing. The man was admitted to the critical care unit with multiple cuts and bruises but was in stable condition, she said.
A CHP officer began following the car about 11 a.m. after it was reported driving recklessly. The officer began chasing the car after seeing it pass cars at up to 90 m.p.h. by using all lanes and the right shoulder, officials said.