A memorial of candles and flowers grew Friday in Windsor Hills at the scene of a fiery crash that killed six people, including an infant and pregnant woman, while investigators worked to learn why a Mercedes-Benz driver plowed through the intersection at high speed, showing no sign of attempting to stop for a red light.
The driver, described as a woman in her 40s, survived the crash and was hospitalized at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Friday, but she was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, according to the California Highway Patrol. Her name has not been released. There was no immediate word if drugs or alcohol factored into the crash.
A determination on criminal charges will rest with the District Attorney’s Office.
The pregnant woman who died was identified Friday by the coroner’s office as 23-year-old Asherey Ryan of Los Angeles. She and her male fetus were among the victims killed in the crash that occurred just before 1:40 p.m. Thursday at La Brea and Slauson avenues, near Ladera Park.
According to Ryan’s Facebook page, she had a roughly year-old son. Ryan’s relatives confirmed to Fox11 that the boy was also killed in the crash.
Dramatic surveillance video from the scene showed the Mercedes plowing through the 35 mph zone on La Brea at a speed authorities estimate neared 100 mph — speeding through a red light at Slauson and broad-siding a vehicle. The crash ignited an inferno as the sedan struck by the Mercedes was pushed into other vehicles, which wound up against a gas station sign on the corner. A trail of fire was left burning in the intersection as the vehicles struck by the speeding driver were engulfed in flames.
As many as six vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction crash, with the heavily damaged Mercedes ending up near a bench down the street. The driver survived.
The fire department and the California Highway Patrol reported three adults and one infant died in the collision, and that there were multiple ejections due to the crash. Ryan’s male fetus was also being counted among the deceased. Unconfirmed reports from the scene suggested Ryan was more than eight months pregnant, and was traveling to a doctor’s appointment when the crash occurred.
The CHP reported a sixth victim was later found dead in the burned wreckage of one vehicle, but further information about that person was not immediately available. At least eight other people were injured in the collision, though the extent of their injuries was not immediately known.
A media report from the scene Friday morning suggested all of the people injured in the crash have been released from hospitals — except for the Mercedes driver. NBC4 and the Los Angeles Times reported she is a nurse.
Community activists gathered at the intersection Friday, adding to a growing memorial for the victims of the crash.
“This is a catastrophic situation that has taken place in our community,” activist Eddie Jones told reporters. “I cried all night, because someone innocent who did not deserve to lose their life, lost their life.”
Veronica Esquivel, 40, told the Daily News she was about to pump gas at one of the intersection’s four stations when the crash occurred.
“I heard the collision. I saw the fire … you see the fire at a gas station I just immediately thought explosion,” Esquivel said. “I saw things flying in the air … I didn’t know if something was going to come through and hit me.”
The intersection of La Brea and Slauson avenues reopened around 3:30 a.m. Friday.