3 dead, 1 flees in head-on crash in Valley Center

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. – Three men were killed, another suffered minor injuries and a fifth fled on foot after a pickup crashed head-on into a tow truck Tuesday morning on a winding rural road near Harrah's Resort Southern California.

The collision occurred shortly after 6 a.m. on Valley Center Road, between North Lake Wohlford Road and Paradise Creek Lane, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The tow truck was headed north when the southbound Ford F-150 veered into its path for unknown reasons, CHP public-affairs Officer Mark Latulippe said.

Three men in the pickup ranging in age from 25 to 45 were pronounced dead at the scene, the officer said. A fourth who had been riding in the front passenger seat of the F-150 walked or ran away following the crash and was later found uninjured at a relative's home in Escondido. He told police he left the crash because he didn't have his cell phone.

Medics took the tow-truck driver to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido for treatment of superficial injuries, Latulippe said.

It was unclear if speeding or intoxication played a role in the accident, though authorities found beer cans and bottles that had spilled their contents inside the crumpled pickup truck, Latulippe said. That discovery was inconclusive, since the containers could have burst open during the collision, the spokesman noted.

The wreck forced a complete closure of Valley Center Road at North Lake Wohlford Road, prompting the Highway Patrol to issue a traffic alert for the area. The roadway was open again in the early afternoon, the CHP advised.

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