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Car Crushed; Family Safe

Accident: Couple and their 2-year-old daughter are injured but escape with lives when their vehicle is flattened by a truck as it overturns on the Santa Ana Freeway.


BUENA PARK — A family in a car that was crushed Monday by a produce truck on the Santa Ana Freeway survived with injuries, including some to a 2-year-old whose padded safety seat may have been her lifesaver.

The accident occurred about 1 p.m. in the northbound lanes near Artesia Boulevard when another car collided with the truck, causing it to swerve across lanes and overturn atop a Pontiac Firebird, said Officer Denise Medina, a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman.

"The T-topped Firebird was completely flattened," Medina said. "It was pretty incredible that they came out OK."

Firefighters and paramedics used a hydraulic prying device to free driver Gustavo Mendoza, 22, and his wife, Raquel, 20, from the wreckage. Firefighters from both Los Angeles and Orange counties then worked for about 30 minutes to free the couple's daughter, Janette.

The three-vehicle collision occurred as the produce truck was heading north, with a Geo Prizm and the Firebird following in the same lane.

CHP officials said the driver of the Prizm suddenly swerved to the right lane. Mendoza reacted by cutting into the left lane, leaving the truck between and parallel to the two cars, Medina said.

For unknown reasons, CHP investigators said, the Prizm and the truck collided twice. The truck driver lost control and veered left, hit the freeway guardrail and toppled onto the Firebird.

The Mendozas, of Orange Grove near Fresno, had their seat belts on, and the girl was secured in the back in a car seat, Medina said. Fire officials said the toddler "survived because of the type of the safety seat she was in, which was padded around the head area," Medina said.

The father suffered a broken arm and the mother minor bruises. They were later listed in good condition at UCI Medical Center in Orange. The toddler, who was airlifted to the hospital, was in moderate condition.

The truck driver, Chan Trinh, 27, of Vista, was taken to La Palma Intercommunity Hospital with moderate injuries.

Investigators said the driver of the Prizm, Ascencion Uribe, 50, of Los Angeles, pulled to the right shoulder and was uninjured.

No one was cited and the investigation is continuing.

The freeway's northbound lanes were blocked for more than two hours before the truck was removed by a crane.

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