As many as 16 injured in tragic accident
A fiery three-vehicle crash just south of Bishop Monday night killed at least three persons and injured as many as 16 others. The incident involved a van carrying athletes and staff from California Baptist University in Riverside and an SUV.
California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Cleland said the van, one of a trio of vehicles from the college heading north on U.S. 395, was struck by an SUV traveling in the opposite direction that appears to have lost control sometime around 8 p.m. The university vans were only a few miles from Bishop when a southbound SUV with five people inside drifted onto the shoulder, then veered back, overturned and rolled through the center divider, striking the van and bursting into flames, Cleland said.
A vehicle traveling behind the vans also hit the flaming SUV.
According to CBU officials, cheerleading coach Wendy Rice, 35, of Corona was killed in the crash. She and the athletes were headed to a high-altitude training camp in Mammoth Lakes when the accident occurred Monday night. Also killed were two people in the SUV, but so far the Inyo County coroner hasn’t released names and residences, likely due to respect for family notification, as is standard procedure in such situations.
A deputy managed to pull one man from the burning SUV and went back for a second person screaming for help; however, the deputy was unable to render any further assistance due to extreme flames and heat, according to a CHP report. A third person, who was burned and hurled from the SUV, reportedly walked past the deputy then died on the pavement.
One student-athlete in the van and three people in the SUV were in extremely critical condition, Cleland said. The SUV patients had third-degree burns.
The woman driving the third vehicle suffered third-degree burns to her arm, Cleland said.
At least three students had major injuries. Cleland identified them as Marissa Benson of Gresham, Ore.; Alicia Catamese of Corona; and Allissa Neimeyer of Temecula, who underwent surgery.
At least four students were treated for minor injuries at a nearby hospital and released. They were identified as Jennifer McGuire, 17, of Stevenson Ranch; Jonathan Monteon, 18, of Chino; Jonathan Hernandez, 18, of Moreno Valley, and Hanna Ingulsrud, 19, of Ontario.
The university was closed Tuesday and officials said a memorial service was being planned. The accident is still listed as being under investigation, but Officer Cleland indicated there is no evidence that alcohol or drugs were involved. –Sheet Staff/Los Angeles Times/Associated Press