The 18-year-old son of a sheriff’s homicide detective was publicly identified Sunday as one of the three people killed by racing drivers on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway southeast of Los Angeles.
Brian Lewandowski was named as the third fatality from the fiery crash at 12:01 Saturday morning, on a trip with friends home from Disneyland. His name was released Sunday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The other victims killed were identified by their acquaintances. The parents of Michelle Littlefield, 19, said they lost their only child, a student studying business at College of the Canyons and an employee at Six Flags Magic Mountain, where Lewandowski also worked.
A UPS truck driver, Scott Treadway, 52, of Mira Loma, was also killed in the crash, according to his co-workers at Teamsters Local 396. He had been driving trucks for the delivery service for 30 years.
Four other people were burned in the explosive crash about eight miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Two of those were critically injured, and witnesses said they had seen people running on the freeway, their clothes burning.
Lewandowski and Littlefield were in a northbound gray Nissan that had its top sheared off when the big rig went airborne after being clipped in southbound lanes near Garfield Avenue by a Dodge Challenger that was allegedly racing a Dodge Charger, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The Challenger driver — Dealio Lockhart, 35, of Whittier — remained jailed today on $1 million bail after being arrested at the scene and booked on suspicion of three counts of vehicular manslaughter, among other offenses. The Charger driver was being sought.
Lewandowski was survived by his two brothers and his parents Jocelyn and Victor Lewandowski, a homicide detective with the sheriff’s department.
“Brian was an incredible young man and every parent’s dream for a son,” according to a statement issued by his family.
“We are absolutely devastated by our loss. Our hearts go out to the other victims and their families and our prayers are for the survivors’ recovery. We are very thankful for the love and support of family and friends throughout this time.”
Six Flags Magic Mountain officials also issued a statement offering condolences. “The Six Flags Magic Mountain family was saddened to learn about two of their team members who were tragically killed in the I-5 freeway incident in Commerce… . Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”
The two Dodge muscle cars were being driven aggressively and were jockeying for position near the Citadel Outlet Mall, CHP investigators said.
Lockhart saw a vehicle moving at normal freeway speed ahead and swerved to go around it at the same time the vehicle was moving to the right, according to a CHP statement.
He applied his brakes, lost control of the car and hit the side of the UPS truck. The 18-wheeler went airborne, over the center median, and sheared off the top of the oncoming Nissan, which had Lewandowski, Littlefield and two others inside.
The truck came to rest on top of a red Ford Explorer on the northbound side of the freeway, north of Washington Boulevard, and immediately became burst into flames.
“It was fully engulfed and there were explosions at the scene from the truck which could have been tires exploding or the gas tanks,” CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.
Debris from the collision struck a Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Silverado, which were traveling on the northbound side. Treadway, Littlefield and Lewandowski were pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash created a 24-hour nightmare for motorists, backing up the freeway for miles, according to the CHP.
Lockhart, meanwhile, was being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles in lieu of $1 million bail and is due in court on Tuesday, also in downtown Los Angeles, according to sheriff’s online jail records.
Witnesses who saw the crash were asked to call the CHP’s East Los Angeles office at (323) 980-4600.
— City News Service