OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Three San Diego County residents were killed in a fiery Christmas night crash on southbound Interstate 5 in Oceanside, police said Tuesday.
The names of the victims were not immediately released, but California Highway Patrol officers identified one as an Escondido man and the other two as a man and woman in their 80s from San Diego.
The Escondido man was behind the wheel of a 1996 Nissan sedan about 5:20 p.m. Monday, headed southbound on I-5 toward the eastbound state Route 76 offramp, when he suddenly veered left attempting to get back on the I-5, CHP Officer Mark Latulippe said. Witnesses said the car slammed into a barrier near the transition ramp, coming to a stop on the right shoulder of the freeway.
But for reasons still under investigation Tuesday, the crashed car moved from the right shoulder all the way into the far left lane of the freeway, where it stopped, Latulippe said. That's where a 2016 Nissan Sentra with three occupants crashed into the older Nissan, sparking a fire that engulfed the older car.
The driver and lone occupant of the older Nissan sedan that first crashed into the barrier was killed when his car was struck by the Nissan Sentra, Latulippe said. A man and woman who were passengers in the Sentra also died, while the 65-year-old woman driving that car was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla with moderate injuries.
A 38-year-old Huntington Park man in a 2018 Toyota Rav4 was unable to avoid the disabled cars as he approached the scene and sideswiped one of the vehicles, but no injuries were believed to have been caused by that crash, Latulippe said.
After shutting down three lanes initially, CHP officers eventually shut down all southbound lanes on the I-5 at the point of the crash, snarling traffic. The southbound lanes were affected for about two hours during the on-scene investigation.
CHP investigators were still probing Tuesday what caused the crash and whether or not alcohol or drugs were involved.