PALMDALE (CBSLA) – Authorities are searching for a speeding driver who fled after causing a fiery hit-and-run wreck that killed two people near the Antelope Valley Mall in Palmdale in the early morning hours Wednesday.
The crash involving at least two vehicles occurred in the area of North 11th Street West and West Rancho Vista Boulevard at approximately 12:30 a.m.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sergeant told CBSLA that a Dodge Challenger was speeding when it rear-ended a Toyota Corolla and knocked over a light pole in the process.
Nearby surveillance video captured the moment of impact as the streaking Challenger collided with the Corolla, causing it to explode into flames. Its two occupants died at the scene.
Spechelle Pope, 28, a mother of four young children, and 37-year-old Lesther Deleon, a rideshare driver taking her to the grocery store, were the two people killed.
Jonathan Craig, an employee of a nearby 24-hour Denny's restaurant, rushed to the scene of the crash and helped pull the rideshare driver out of the wreckage.
"I used an apron to pull him out, that's how badly burned he was," Craig said. "He passed away, I want to say, three minutes after me pulling him out of the fire. I told him to hang on, listen to my voice, the ambulance is coming, they're on their way...He took his last breath."
The Challenger was abandoned nearby. Craig witnessed the driver of the Challenger jump into an Infiniti that sped away.
Investigators believe the driver of the Challenger had been street racing.
"We have had an increase in street racing issues in the area," LASD Det. Liz Sherman said. "We do have deputies that are out nightly that are trying to make an impact on the car clubs."
Records from the DMV indicate the Challenger is registered to EAN Holdings LLC., which operates Alamo, Enterprise and National car rentals.
"When I learned it was my sister, it just hurts," said Justuss Pope, brother of the victim. "Especially when you see everything is on fire, that's just unhuman like, it's disregard for life."
Deleon was a beloved soccer coach driving for Lyft at the time.
"Prayers to my coach," said Elijah Coronel, the victim's student. "I love him to death. To his family and dad as well."
The intersection was closed for several hours while sheriff's investigators canvassed the scene.
"And also if you saw anything, we ask that you speak out because just imagine this was someone in your family," Pope added.
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