A 23-year-old man killed in a wrong-way collision on the Pomona (60) Freeway in Riverside was identified Monday.
Shanilka Mapatuna of Moreno Valley was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which injured both drivers and remains under investigation.
The collision occurred about 3:30 a.m. Sunday on the eastbound 60, near Market Street, after a 19-year-old Ontario woman, whose name was withheld, was spotted driving the wrong way around Frederick Street in Moreno Valley, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Several motorists passed the wrong-way driver and called 911, prompting three CHP patrol units to attempt to catch up to her, said Officer Dan Olivas.
The woman continued driving her 2002 Ford Mustang about seven miles into Riverside, going well in excess of the speed limit in the fast lane, apparently oblivious to the vehicles coming straight at her, according to the CHP
Less than five minutes later, a 23-year-old Fontana man at the wheel of a 2016 Dodge Caravan was heading east in the fast lane and did not see the Mustang in time to swerve, Olivas said.
“The two vehicles subsequently collided head-on in the No. 1 lane,” he said. “The Dodge traveled into the center median and collided with the center divider wall. The Mustang traveled across the roadway and came to rest blocking the 60 eastbound onramp from Main Street.”
Riverside Fire Department paramedics arrived within a few minutes and pronounced Mapatuna, who was riding in the right front passenger seat of the Caravan, dead at the scene.
The Caravan driver and the wrong-way driver were taken to Riverside Community Hospital and were said to be in serious condition at the time.
A condition report on the woman was not available Monday afternoon, but the driver of the Caravan — Alazar Omari — has been released from the hospital. Speaking to ABC7, he tearfully blamed himself for not seeing the wrong-way driver and getting them out of harm’s way.
“I knew that car was going the wrong way,” Omari told the station. “I should have seen it. I should have seen it, but I didn’t.”
Omari said he and Mapatuna — whom he referred to as Jehan — had gone out to celebrate Mapatuna’s birthday. Omari offered to give his friend a ride home, because Mapatuna had a few drinks.
Another motorist, Trevon McFadden, told Channel 7 he swerved to avoid the oncoming car. He said he saw “cars just dodging everywhere” to avoid the wrong-way vehicle.
According to a GoFundMe page set up by Omari, Mapatuna was recently accepted into UCLA to study mathematics.
“We know money will never bring him back but as an only child we want to make sure that his family doesn’t have to worry about most of the financial burden and can focus on grieving,” Omari wrote on the page. “Anything would help his family.”
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