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California and the West

5 Killed, 2 Hurt as Van Strikes Work Crew Near Las Vegas

Accident: The youths were picking up trash along Interstate 15 when the vehicle hit them. Driver is arrested; drug use suspected.

March 20, 2000|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five youths were killed and two others injured Sunday when a speeding van drifted off a freeway north of Las Vegas and slammed into a roadside cleanup crew, Nevada authorities said.

About 20 juvenile offenders on a community service crew were picking up trash on the center divider of Interstate 15, north of Las Vegas near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when the van plowed into the work crew, said Nevada Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Ellison.

The identities of the five dead youths had not been released Sunday night.

The van driver, Jessica Williams, 20, of Poway, Calif., was treated at University Medical Center for minor injuries before she was booked on six counts of felony driving under the influence, six counts of reckless driving and one count of possession of a controlled substance, Ellison said.

A woman passenger in the van was taken to University Medical Center with minor injuries. Two injured crew members were taken to the same hospital, one in critical condition.

The accident occurred about 1:40 p.m.

"They were picking up trash and cleaning up the area," said Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Cabrales. "They were all in one area and she just drove right through them."

Cabrales said two 15-passenger vans that had brought the juveniles to the work area were at the scene, and one was on the right shoulder with its emergency flashers on at the time of the accident. He said officials had not obtained a statement from the driver about what happened.

Cabrales said officers suspect Williams was under the influence of narcotics not alcohol. He said the results of blood tests to determine what drugs she may have taken are pending.

The speed limit posted in the area is 70 mph, but Cabrales said he did not know how fast the woman was going.

Sunday's accident occurred nearly two weeks after another I-15 crash that killed eight and injured five. That accident occurred near Jean 30 miles south of Las Vegas. Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Cooke said the driver fell asleep in the March 6 accident.

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