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1-Car Freeway Crash Leaves 3 Dead, 2 Hurt; Driver Arrested on DUI

CHP reports 'high rate of speed' and alcohol as contributing to the early morning accident on a San Juan Capistrano offramp.

September 18, 2000|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three people were killed and two injured Sunday when a driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol drove a 1993 Ford Explorer off a freeway offramp and into a tree in San Juan Capistrano, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol investigators said three passengers, two men and one woman, died instantly, and the driver and a fourth passenger were taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo in critical condition.

According to a CHP report, the female driver was traveling "at a high rate of speed" and "under the influence of alcohol." She was arrested at the hospital as a "Jane Doe" on suspicion of driving under the influence, said a CHP spokesman.

A hospital spokesman identified the woman as Bethany Harper, 19, of Chino Hills. The surviving passenger was David Lopez, 19, of Covina, according to the spokesman, Bryan Noakes.

According to the coroner's office, the deceased passengers were: Chris Olsen, 23, of West Covina; Jerry Housley, 19, of West Covina; and Mollie Carrico, 19, of Covina.

CHP investigators said tire failure did not contribute to the accident, adding that the sport utility vehicle was not equipped with Firestone tires. Firestone has recalled millions of tires used in Ford Explorers because some tires have fallen apart at freeway speed and are believed to have caused dozens of deaths.

The crash occurred at 6:30 a.m. on northbound Interstate 5. The speeding Explorer exited at the Junipero Serra offramp, jumped the curb and traveled about 200 feet into a landscaped area, the CHP said. The vehicle struck a eucalyptus tree and rolled, coming to rest on its side.

A CHP accident report said Harper and Carrico were wearing seat belts. The report did not say whether the other three passengers were wearing belts. The report also does not say whether any of the passengers had been drinking.

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