Couple arguing ejected, one killed, in SR-74 head-on crash

HOMELAND — A couple arguing while driving through Homeland led to a fatal, head-on collision that left two people ejected – and one dead – from one of the involved vehicles, Monday afternoon, Aug. 19.

The deadly crash, which killed a Hemet woman and injured three other people, happened in the 33000 block of SR-74, about a half-mile west of SR-79, just west of Hemet and east of Perris. Neither of the pair who had been arguing and were ejected were wearing seat belts when the collision happened, according to CHP.

Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials have since identified Jennifer Haro-Gonzalez, 36, of Hemet, as the victim killed in the two-vehicle crash. A coroner’s release indicated the woman died at the scene of the accident and was pronounced deceased at 1:06 p.m.

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CHP, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, and AMR personnel were dispatched to the crash at 12:53 p.m., after receiving multiple reports of the collision, CHP Officer Darren Meyer later reported. 911 callers reported two victims were ejected from one of the cars, both of which careened off the roadway after the crash.

When officials arrived they found the wreckage left by the tremendous impact strewn across the highway. Vehicle parts and debris were strewn across the highway and witnesses were trying to clear the roadway of debris so traffic could continue moving past the accident scene. At the same time, good Samaritans were attempting to provide aid and comfort to those injured in the crash.

“The preliminary investigation revealed the driver and passenger of the Mini Cooper were arguing inside the vehicle prior to the collision,” CHP Officer Darren Meyer later reported.

Paramedics quickly determined Haro-Gonzalez, one of the two people ejected in the crash, had already succumbed to her injuries and had passed away at the scene.

Three others involved in the crash suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious and were transported to area hospitals for further treatment.

While CHP investigated the cause of the collision they determined that just before the crash Christopher Ortega, a 34-year-old, Chowchilla resident, was driving a dark grey, 2005 Mini Cooper westbound on SR-74, west of SR-79. Haro-Gonzalez was traveling with Gonzalez in the front passenger seat.

At the same time, Jesus Diaz, 26, and Kimberly Uribe, 21, both from Perris, were traveling the opposite direction and heading east on SR-74 in a tan, 2018 Toyota Camry.

“The preliminary investigation revealed the driver and passenger of the Mini Cooper were arguing inside the vehicle prior to the collision,” explained Meyer.

As the couple argued while driving along a section of the highway divided by a two-way left turn lane, Ortega’s Mini Cooper crossed into the opposing lane and into oncoming traffic, where the vehicle plowed head-on into the eastbound Toyota.

“The impact was so violent that the engine from the Mini Cooper was torn from the vehicle and flew across the westbound lanes,” Meyer described. “The engine landed on the north dirt shoulder of SR-74 approximately 40 feet from the location of the crash.”

Area resident Michaela Cannon, who drove past the accident scene prior to the arrival of police or rescue personnel, later described the “horrific” crash.

“There was wreckage on both sides of the highway,” Cannon described.

“There was a Mini Cooper spun around but on the … south side (of) Florida,” Cannon continued. “The front end was smashed in pretty bad. The other car was in the ditch on the south side facing the wrong way.”

“I saw one kid walking around with his hand on top of his head,” the witness described. “There were a lot of concerned people pulled over and a lot of people trying to clean (vehicle debris) out of the middle of the street so traffic could flow.”

A CHP officer surveys the extensive damage to one of two vehicles involved in Monday afternoon’s crash that killed a Hemet woman. Judy Ann Fraire photo

Hemet resident Joy Stens later told RCNS she was one of many who stopped to try and render aid to those injured in the crash.

“When I ran to check on the woman ejected from the Mini-Cooper, I could tell she was already dead. It just broke my heart,” Stens reported. “I then went to check on the driver who had also been ejected and he was complaining about severe pelvic pain and appeared to have several broken bones and other very serious injuries.”

“The other couple from the crash was not injured badly, but both needed to be taken to the hospital,” Stens continued.

Jason Remington, of Green Acres, also later spoke with RCNS about the fatal collision.

“When are people in this valley going to realize that driving on the roads around here is like taking their lives into their own hands?” Remington asked. “Between the drunk, distracted, and speeding drivers – added with the fact that there are few real safety improvements other than useless plastic paddles and double yellow lines – it’s like we don’t stand a chance out here. When are our local and state leaders going to do something realistic to stop all these constant accidents and deaths?”

“It’s not just tragic,” Remington continued. “It’s almost criminal at this point how little real help we’re getting for traffic safety throughout this area.”

“Seriously,” Remington lamented, “How many deaths is it going to take before serious safety upgrades and improvements are made?”

Athough CHP has said alcohol and drugs have been ruled out as contributing factors in the cause of this collision, their investigation is ongoing.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

CHP – San Gorgonio Pass, First photo
Judy Ann Fraire, Other photos


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he currently writes for or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, the (now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and 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 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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