NUEVO: Third fatal accident on Ramona Expressway in 7 days rocks SJ Valley
UPDATE: Wednesday, June 13, 6:30 p.m. With corrected and updated information
NUEVO — Details are beginning to emerge after yet another fatal accident took the life of a third victim in just seven days on Ramona Expressway in the Lakeview/Nuevo area. Last night’s deadly accident happened west of Lakeview Avenue and all three fatal incidents happened within two miles of each other.
Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials later identified Felipe Landeros, 52, of Nuevo, as the man who died less than a half hour after the accident, which was reported just after 11:30 p.m. A coroner’s release indicated Landeros was pronounced deceased at the scene at one minute past midnight, June 13.
California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighters, and American Medical Response medics responded to the three-vehicle wreck, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Tawny Cabral.
Although initial reports indicated the accident involved a sedan and pickup truck that collided head-on, official sources close to the investigation indicate that Landeros’ vehicle had become disabled from a previous collision and was stopped in the westbound lane of Ramona expressway, west of Lakeview Ave.
For an unknown reason, Landeros reportedly exited the disabled vehicle and walked around to its passenger side.
Another vehicle that was traveling westbound failed to see Landeros and struck him and then Landeros’ vehicle.
The impact knocked Landeros into the eastbound lanes of traffic where he was then possibly struck by two passing vehicles.
Despite lifesaving efforts, Landeros succumbed to his injuries and medical personnel pronounced him deceased at the scene, said Cabral. The other victim, who has not been identified, sustained minor injuries and was transported by ground ambulance to an area hospital.
While officials worked at the scene they called for the temporary closure of the eastbound lanes of traffic and cars were allowed to slowly work their way past the crash using the westbound lane and dirt shoulder along the north side of the roadway.
California Highway Patrol is investigating this latest fatal accident, as well as the two earlier collisions that happened June 5 and June 11.
The first of this week’s fatal crashes involved a Ford Escape being driven by 33-year-old, Erik Rodriguez Santos, of San Jacinto.
According to CHP and Cal Fire officials, Rodriguez Santos allowed his small SUV to drift into oncoming lanes of traffic while traveling westbound on the expressway, about 500 feet east of Hansen Avenue.
After crossing the double yellow lines, Rodriguez Santos’ SUV smashed into the back of a utility trailer being towed by a Ford F250.
The impact caused the trailer to become unhitched from the truck and Rodriguez Santos’ vehicle continued westbound until it crashed head-on into a Dodge Charger, killing the victim.
A 28-year-old Lake Elsinore woman driving the Dodge was hospitalized with moderate injuries and the 34-year-old Perris man driving the Ford pickup truck was uninjured in the deadly collision, said CHP.
This week’s other fatal crash happened June 11 when a man who officials allege was intoxicated and driving a stolen GMC Sierra pickup truck eastbound on the expressway veered into oncoming traffic between 5th St. and Reservoir Ave.
After crossing the double yellow lines, the stolen truck plowed head-on into a westbound Ford Explorer carrying a driver and two passengers, including a woman and juvenile girl.
The impact instantly killed the driver of the SUV, later identified as 23-year-old, Terrel Moore, of Moreno Valley, and caused both vehicles to overturn.
The two victims from Moore’s SUV were both ejected in the crash and the woman, who has not been identified, was critically injured when the overturning SUV came to rest on its roof and on top of her.
Firefighters spent nearly an hour extricating the woman from underneath the wrecked SUV, before she was rushed to an area trauma center.
Witnesses later reported that the allegedly drunk driver had been recklessly speeding and illegally passing other vehicles just before the deadly wreck.
The man from the stolen truck who caused the wreck, identified by CHP as Joaquin Alvaradosantana, 29, of Nuevo, was seriously injured in the crash and was hospitalized with major injuries, according to CHP and fire officials.
When he is released from the hospital Alvaradosantana faces multiple felony charges, said CHP after the crash.
This week’s rash of back to back fatal accidents within such a short stretch of roadway as well as other major accidents in the same area have left countless area residents fearful of traveling along what some have begun calling the “Death Expressway.”
Many have called for more law enforcement presence in the area and stricter enforcement of traffic laws along the road that has been the site of so many major and fatal collisions.
Citing the fact that most of the collisions have involved head-on accidents and speeders trying to pass along the two lane roadway, area resident J Brian Garofalo was one of countless people who have recently called upon officials to recognize the dangers of the two-lane expressway.
“Too many people are dying on Ramona (Expressway) each year,” said Garofalo in response to the recent fatalities. “It needs a divider like every other civilized high-speed highway in America”
“C’mon Jerry (Brown) and CalTrans,” Garofalo continued, “folks are dying.”
Charles Crocker was another area resident who has long been calling for the installation of K-Rails along the dangerous road, saying there have been “way too many wrecks and fatalities” and that “it’s time some type of median or barrier is installed on Ramona Expressway.”
David Olmedo echoed Garofalo’s and Crocker’s sentiment saying, “That expressway is starting to look like a graveyard with all the crosses going up along that stretch – how many more need to be put up before something is done about it?”
Melissa Tolley, who was traveling on the expressway June 11 at the same time as the fatal accident involving Alvaradosantana later said the deadly crash could have involved her and her family.
“(Alvaradosantana) sped past me on the turn where Hansen and Nuevo meet,” Tolley explained. “I had no idea how close we were to being that family that got hit.”
Lakeview area resident Jim Hoover summed up many other’s feelings about the expressway saying, “It’s as simple as this, if you drive that road you know you are taking your life into your own hands and there is almost more chance you will be hurt or killed than not.”
“It simply isn’t worth the risk any more,” explained Hoover.
“You wouldn’t catch me dead on that road. Never again,” Hoover continued. “At least until something is done to better protect the residents and drivers who use that damn road.”
CHP’s investigations into all three fatal accidents are ongoing.
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Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.