Four people, including a California Highway Patrol officer, were injured in a multi-vehicle crash that closed a stretch of the eastbound 60 Freeway in Pomona for four hours Monday, authorities said.
Baldwin Park CHP Officer John Tapia, 39, who suffered second-degree burns on the face and arms and a possible fractured wrist, was airlifted to County-USC Medical Center, CHP Sgt. Mike Dulong said at a news conference.
The accident happened a day after two Los Angeles off-duty police officers died only hours apart in separate collisions on the 101 Freeway.
Monday's crash occurred shortly after 11:40 a.m. on the eastbound 60 Freeway just west of the Garey Avenue exit, officials said. The CHP officer had been escorting Caltrans sweeper trucks along the freeway's carpool lane at about 5 mph to 10 mph when the officer's patrol car was rear-ended by a Ford Expedition that was traveling about 70 mph, Dulong said.
"The [SUV] driver failed to see the vehicles," Dulong said. On impact, the patrol car veered into a Lincoln Aviator in the next lane, then careened across the freeway before stopping by the right shoulder, where it burst into flames.
The resulting freeway closure further snarled already terrible traffic on the eastbound 60, where nearly all lanes had been shut for several hours after two big rigs collided about 7 a.m., trapping one person.
The two police officers who died over the weekend were remembered by top Los Angeles Police Department officials Monday as men who brought vitality and leadership to crime-fighting in the San Fernando Valley.
Det. Mike Selleh, 52, died early Sunday when his motorcycle was hit by a car during a chaotic 16-vehicle pileup on the Hollywood Freeway that the CHP said remained under investigation.
Capt. William Scott described Selleh, a veteran narcotics detective, as an easygoing person -- until it came to his job.
"He never slowed down," Scott said.
Within hours of Selleh's death, 33-year-old Officer David Rodriguez skidded off the Ventura Freeway portion of the 101 near the Sepulveda Boulevard exit and plunged down an embankment to his death.
Capt. Sharyn Buck said Rodriguez, who became an LAPD officer in 2003, grew up in North Hollywood and saw firsthand the effect of gangs on a community.
"He believed that he could make a difference and after his initial probation period, returned to the neighborhood," Buck said. "He led others through his enthusiasm for his job and the place he lived. Even for those who did not live there, his attitude was contagious."
Rodriguez had received several commendations, including one for his role in the arrest of the Valley "Pizza Bandit" late last year. He is survived by his mother and a brother.
Police Chief William J. Bratton did not attend the news conference because of the death of his mother, June M. Bratton, who died Sunday at age 80.