Five people died in Antelope Valley traffic crashes Thursday, including four who were killed in a head-on collision reportedly caused by a parolee speeding along Sierra Highway in a stolen auto.
The auto, racing north at 90 mph in Palmdale, rear-ended a pickup truck and crossed the lane divider, slamming into a sport utility vehicle carrying a doctor and four of his co-workers.
Two women, a passenger in the stolen vehicle and one in the sport utility vehicle, died at the scene. Two other people in the sport utility vehicle died later at local hospitals.
Both drivers survived the crash. The driver of the stolen auto, Shawn Eugene Beavers, 27, of Rosamond, was taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center with two broken legs.
The vehicle Beavers was driving had been reported stolen Sunday in Sherman Oaks, said Sgt. Ken Wright of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Dr. John Fisher, a kidney specialist at Antelope Valley Hospital, was driving the sport utility vehicle, according to Paul Allemeier, a vice president at the hospital. Fisher, 46, was treated there for minor injuries and released.
"He is very distraught," Allemeier said. "He's looking for, 'How could I have avoided it?' "
The Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the people killed in the sport utility vehicle as 52-year-old Mark Rittenberg and his wife, Mary, 41, both of Palmdale, and Georgina Schmidt, 43 of Lancaster. Fisher runs the Antelope Valley Dialysis Center, Allemeier said, and Wright said the passengers in the sport utility vehicle were his co-workers.
Another passenger in Fisher's vehicle, 37-year-old Linda Mann, was in critical condition Thursday night at Lancaster Community Hospital, said nursing supervisor Sally Surette.
The woman in the stolen auto was not identified.
The accident occurred about 1:30 p.m. at Avenue O-8, the same spot where three people died in a head-on crash two years ago.
"It's terrible," Wright said. "I was out at the scene earlier, and when I was going through a [victim's] purse, looking for ID, there were all kinds of pictures of children and families. Then on the other side we've got a parolee, driving a stolen vehicle, who has ruined all these lives."
No one in the pickup was hurt, he said. Wright said an off-duty sheriff's deputy saw the crash.
Earlier in the day in Quartz Hill, a Lake Hughes man was killed when he ran a red light and slammed into a bus, injuring five others, authorities said.
Ron Wesseler, 43, died about 7:55 a.m. at 50th Street West and Avenue L-8, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Mike Brown.
Officials said Wesseler was driving on L-8 in a pickup truck when he ignored the light, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Scott Weldy.
"We do not know how fast the truck was going. There are no brake marks," Weldy said.
The bus driver lost control and the bus went over a curb and struck a pedestrian before it skidded to a halt in a vacant lot. Passengers Gloria Castillo, 55, and her daughter Antionette, 22, were injured, Weldy said. The mother was listed in stable condition at Northridge Hospital and the daughter was treated and released, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The pedestrian, identified as Ronald Juvinall, 44, of Lancaster, suffered broken ribs and ankles, authorities said. He was in serious condition at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
The bus driver and a man who was thrown from the bus also suffered minor injuries in the crash.