COMMERCE (CBSLA.com) — A fiery crash Saturday morning on I-5 in Commerce that claimed the lives of two men and a woman was started by motorists racing on the freeway, the California Highway Patrol said.
In the aftermath of the crash, Dealio Lockhart, 35, of Whittier was arrested and could face vehicular manslaughter charges, the CHP said. Police were searching Saturday for a second motorist.
The accident on the southbound I-5 at Garfield Avenue took place just after midnight, the CHP said.
Lockhart, driving a Dodge Challenger, was racing a Dodge Charger southbound when he saw a slower vehicle ahead and attempted to get around it at the same time that vehicle was trying to move to the right, the CHP said.
Lockhart applied his brakes, lost control of his car and struck the left side of a UPS tractor trailer, which became airborne, hitting and shearing off the top of a gray Nissan.
The suspected racers were believed to be going 85 to 90 mph, KCAL9's Joy Benedict reported.
"The person we have in custody did admit to street racing," CHP officer Doris Peniche said. "He observed a similar looking vehicle, it caught his attention and they began to race."
The semi-truck hit the center divider and struck at least six vehicles on the northbound side of the freeway. The semi-truck was then engulfed in flames.
"It was fully engulfed and there were explosions at the scene from the truck which could have been tires exploding or the gas tanks," CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said. "We just don't know yet."
The driver of the UPS truck was pronounced dead at the scene, he said. Identified Saturday afternoon as Richard Scott Treadway of Mira Loma, he was based out of the company's Cerritos office and had been with the company about 30 years.
UPS released a brief statement Saturday: "Our thoughts are with the victims of this accident. UPS will cooperate with police as they investigate, and we will also conduct our own investigation."
Debris from the collision struck a Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Silverado, which were traveling on the northbound side.
Two people inside the Nissan were pronounced dead at the scene. A teenager killed in the Nissan was identified Saturday by her family as Michelle Littlefield, 19, of Santa Clarita. She was student at College of the Canyons and worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Paramedics rushed two other people to County/USC Medical Center with major injuries, the CHP reported.
L.A. County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Miguel Ornelas told City News Service that two more people suffered minor injuries and were taken to another hospital.
Debris was spread across all the southbound lanes. The crash also created a nightmare for motorists, backing up north and southbound traffic on the freeway for miles, according to the CHP.
The crash scene forced the CHP to shut down the 5 Freeway in both directions.
Southbound lanes reopened late Saturday evening, while northbound lanes were expected to remain closed until at least midnight.
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