Five Die in Fiery SUV Crash

Fence prevented bystanders from reaching any potential survivors

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 2:58 PM PDT
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Five Die in Fiery SUV Crash

AP Photo/Ken Steinhardt, The Orange County Register

A Chevrolet SUV came to rest in a parking lot after it drifted to the right on southbound Interstate 5 just south of La Paz and rolled down an embankment and burst into flames in Mission Viejo.

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An SUV rolled off the southbound San Diego (5) Freeway in Mission Viejo, crashed down an embankment and burst into flames
Tuesday, killing everyone inside. 

California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Goodwin said initially that five people died inside the vehicle, but CHP Officer Gabe Montoya said later that the vehicle's interior was so charred that the SUV will be taken to a coroner's lab so investigators can verify the number of victims.

“It's going to take some time to do it right,” Montoya said. 

Montoya had said the initial estimate of five lives was largely based on how many people the Chevrolet sub-compact SUV can hold.

A family member identified the victims as Juan Antonio Sandoval, 37; his wife, 33-year-old Belinda; their two daughters, 11-year-old Nayelli and 4-year-old Natalie; and Belinda Sandoval's 6-year-old niece.

The crash was reported at 10:25 p.m. near La Paz Road, Montoya said.

The vehicle was being driven south on the 5 Freeway when it suddenly veered across all lanes of the freeway and rolled over the embankment near a Borders bookstore, bursting into flames a few minutes later, Montoya said.
 
It's not certain what caused the driver to lose control of the SUV, but initial witness reports indicate it was a tire blow-out, Montoya said.
 
Witness Ron Hobson, 50, of Fullerton, told the OC Register, “I‘m sick to my stomach. I figure I’ll just go home, have a drink and hug my kids."

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