RIVERSIDE: Wrong-way DUI driver kills mother and daughter in head-on crash
RIVERSIDE — A mother and daughter heading to an area casino for a day of fun were killed early Friday morning, Aug. 10, after a suspected DUI driver entered the eastbound 91 Freeway heading westbound and plowed head-on into the victim’s car. After the impact, the victim’s car burst into flames and good Samaritans who were first at the scene helped pull the two surviving occupants from the two cars.
Both victims died at the scene and a third victim suffered major injuries, according to California Highway Patrol. The alleged drunk driver, who appeared uninjured in the deadly wreck, was apprehended as he was walking away from the scene of the crash.
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Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials later identified Ethel Granados, 74, and Fatima Granados, 52, as the women killed in the wreck. Both women were San Bernardino residents. A coroner’s release indicated the mother and daughter were pronounced deceased at the exact same time, at 2:07 a.m.
CHP received a 911 call reporting a wrong-way driver on the 91 Freeway at 1:47 a.m., according to a CHP incident log. The caller told dispatchers the driver was heading westbound in the eastbound lanes near Central Avenue.
Just three minutes later, while officers were trying to intercept the wrong-way driver, dispatchers received several 911 calls reporting a two-vehicle, head-on crash near Arlington Ave.
When officials arrived they found two wrecked vehicles, described as a black Nissan and silver Chevy. Both cars sustained major, front-end damage and were blocking several lanes of traffic.
Area resident Kevin Brown was on his way home from work when he came upon the scene of the wreck. He saw several vehicles pulling over and people rushing to the aid of the four occupants from the two destroyed sedans.
As Brown ran toward the wrecked cars to see if he could help, he saw that people were already working to pull the alleged drunk driver from the Nissan and he turned his attention to the three occupants trapped inside the Chevy.
As he and another, unidentified man were struggling to pry open the doors of the Chevy, the car burst into flames, momentarily pushing Brown and the other good Samaritan back. Despite the danger from the growing fire, the two men quickly returned to trying to rescue the vehicle’s occupants from their burning car.
Although he and others at the scene believed the victims’ car could explode at any moment, he refused to leave the three victims to die.
“I just couldn’t leave them,” Brown later explained from the scene.
Brown tried without success to break the car’s side windows and eventually climbed onto the back of the sedan and used his fists to punch his way through the back window to gain access to the victims inside the Chevy.
When Brown managed to crawl into the car, he found both mother and daughter had already succumbed to their injuries. He found a third occupant, described as a man in his mid-40’s, with major injuries and helped drag the man from the car to safety, just as CHP and firefighters were arriving.
Firefighters managed to quickly extinguish the flames and paramedics began treating the sole surviving occupant from the Chevy and evaluating the wrong-way driver, who had been detained when CHP arrived at the scene as he was walking away from the area.
The victim who Brown and the other good Samaritan helped save from the burning car was eventually transported to Riverside Community Hospital in serious condition, with broken bones in his legs and other major injuries.
While firefighters and paramedics worked at the scene, CHP began investigating the crash and interviewed several witnesses as well as the alleged wrong-way drunk driver.
Officers investigating the fatal crash later determined the alleged drunk driver had entered the westbound off-ramp to the freeway going the wrong way, CHP Officer Bryan Arenzt explained from the scene of the crash. The man, who has not yet been identified publicly, continued driving the wrong way until the fatal crash.
Although the alleged DUI driver did not appear to be injured, he was eventually transported to an area hospital to be checked out. He was expected to be arrested at the hospital and booked into jail on suspicion of two counts of felony DUI/vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury. Additional charges could be filed, according to Arenzt.
Yesterday morning’s deadly crash was the second recent fatal accident caused by a wrong-way drunk driver to happen in the city of Riverside in the last four weeks.
The other fatal accident was caused by a 19-year-old, Ontario woman, after she drove at least seven miles in the wrong direction on the 60 Freeway.
Her Ford Mustang eventually plowed head-on into a Dodge van being driven by 23-year-old, Moreno Valley resident, Shanilka “Jehan” Mapatuna. He was pronounced deceased at the scene about ten minutes after the crash was reported.
In the wake of the two recent crashes, CHP is again warning nighttime drivers to avoid using the number one and two lanes of the freeway, saying that most wrong-way drunk drivers tend to drive in those lanes after heading the wrong way on the freeway.
“If at all possible try and stay out of the left-most lanes … and travel in the right-side lanes,” Arenzt explained. “Because when impaired drivers do get on the freeway and they do go the wrong way, a lot of times they end up driving on the right side of the roadway, which if you reverse it, is going to be the fast lane.”
While officials were still working at the scene of yesterday’s tragic and preventable deadly crash, Brown talked about the alleged drunk driver’s actions that killed the mother and daughter and injured the third victim, calling the alleged drunk driver’s actions “very irresponsible.”
“People don’t believe this is real, until it happens to them,” said Brown. “It’s sad that it’s so common and it shouldn’t be that way.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Don’t do it. You have control,” Brown continued. “Control yourself to not drink and drive.”
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Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of 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 his “fluid family” boasts 13 children and 14 – soon to be 16 – grandchildren.