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3 Killed, 2 Hurt in Sepulveda Pass Crash

Accident: Car on sharp curve crosses center line and slams head-on into pickup, officers say. Site south of Mulholland Drive is notorious for accidents.

April 28, 2000|SUE FOX and MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Three men were killed and two injured when their subcompact car slammed head-on into a pickup truck Thursday in the Sepulveda Pass, authorities said.

Firefighters said the pregnant wife of one of the men killed was traveling near him in another car. After witnessing the accident, the woman was so shaken that she was taken to a hospital, said Capt. Frank Fletcher of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The car was heading north on Sepulveda Boulevard at 3:45 p.m. when it crossed the center line on a sharp curve about 1 mile south of Mulholland Drive.

It barreled into the southbound path of a pickup. The impact crushed the driver's side of the car and trapped the occupants inside, Fletcher said.

The car driver and two passengers in the back seat died at the scene, while two other passengers were rushed to hospitals with injuries.

All five were described as men in their 20s or 30s, Fletcher said.

The pickup turned on its side, and the 25-year-old driver suffered facial cuts and back pain. He too was hospitalized.

Two other drivers lost control of their vehicles in a chain reaction triggered by the crash, said paramedic Vince Marzo. Both drivers had minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

Marzo, one of the first to respond to the crash, said the men in the car did not appear to be wearing seat belts. Witnesses told police that the car was traveling "at a high rate of speed" in the 35 mph zone, said police Sgt. Terri Brinkmeyer.

The crash occurred on a curve notorious for accidents. Two men died on the same stretch after crossing into oncoming traffic in October.

"This is like a runway," Fletcher said, adding that last week a motorcyclist had crashed at the same spot.

The road is so accident-prone that years ago Fletcher asked city transportation officials to improve its safety. The city installed a guardrail and signs indicating a sharp curve. But there is no center divider.

Six ambulances and one helicopter responded to the crash, but the car was so crushed that rescuers could not immediately free the men. It took about 12 minutes for the Fire Department to bring cutting equipment to the scene, Fletcher said.

Authorities closed Sepulveda between Mulholland and Mountaingate Drive, sending a stream of backlogged cars onto the San Diego Freeway during the evening rush hour.

One man injured in the crash, identified by hospital staff as Ryan Craig, 25, of Los Angeles, was listed in good condition with facial cuts at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center. Authorities could not say which vehicle he was in.

A 26-year-old man, who also suffered facial cuts, was in good condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Another man in his 20s, who suffered broken ribs, was in serious condition at UCLA Medical Center, according to a nurse supervisor.

Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this story.

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