LA Sheriff's Department cruiser
MNLA.com photo by John Schreiber

Authorities Thursday identified a driver who died along with his passenger in a fiery collision when a Dodge Challenger involved in an illegal street race hit their car from behind, causing it to slam into a light pole and burst into flames.

Paramedics pronounced both victims dead at the scene of the crash about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday at 11th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard.

The man was identified by the coroner’s office as Lesther Deleon, 37, of Lake Los Angeles. The woman’s name was withheld by authorities, but a man who said he was her father identified her to CBS2 as Spechelle Pope, 28, a mother of four children. He said his daughter was a passenger in a ride-hailing vehicle, on her way to get groceries.

Sheriff’s officials said the Challenger was westbound at a high rate of speed on Rancho Vista when it slammed into Deleon’s Toyota Corolla from behind, causing him to lose control of the car, which hit a light pole and rolled over, becoming fully engulfed in flames. Deleon was ejected, and his passenger was trapped inside.

The driver of the Challenger abandoned the car and left the scene in another vehicle described by witnesses a dark blue Infiniti.

“We have had an increase in street racing issues in the area,” sheriff’s Detective Liz Sherman told Channel 2. “We do have deputies that are out nightly that are trying to make an impact on the car clubs.”

As of Thursday morning, no arrests had been reported by the sheriff’s department.

Jonathan Craig, who works at a nearby Denny’s restaurant, told KTLA5 he tried to save the Toyota driver from the wreckage.

“I was burning my hands. I took off my apron to try to pull him without burning myself. I pulled him to safety, which I thought was safety, and he stayed with me for about two more minutes,” Craig said. “I tried to keep his attention, you know, telling him to stay with me because he was groaning, he was still breathing, and eventually he stopped breathing. I never thought I’d witness something like that, dude, to be honest.”

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