Friends ID CHP Officer, Family as Crash Victims

By Mari Payton and R. Stickney
|  Monday, Aug 31, 2009  |  Updated 8:10 PM PDT
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Saylor Family Killed in Lexus Accident

An image taken from the air shows the vehicle resting in the brush just off the road.

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Friends ID CHP Officer, Family as Crash Victims

Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.

Friends ID CHP Officer, Family as Crash Victims

Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.
More Photos and Videos

Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.

CHP spokesperson, Brian Pennings said the agency believes its officer Mark Saylor, 45, a 19-year veteran of the CHP, was killed in the accident.

Another CHP officer, Mike May, Saylor’s friend and co-worker was visiting the scene of the accident Sunday when he told NBCSanDiego that the three other victims in the crash included Saylor’s wife Cleofe, daughter Mahala and brother-in-law Chris Lasterlla.

After May put flowers on the spot where the accident happened at northbound Highway 125 and Mission Gorge Road, he said, "I know Mark did everything he could to prevent this. I know he was just calm and kept his faith in God."

CHP investigators said they received a 911 call before 7 p.m. Friday from Saylor's wife Cleofe saying their car’s accelerator was stuck.

Witnesses reported seeing a Lexus heading northbound on 125 weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed. CHP officials said the driver tried to make a left turn when the freeway ended at Mission Gorge Road, but he was going too fast and struck a Ford Explorer.

The Lexus then broke through a fence and struck a dirt embankment, catapulting it through the air more than 100 feet. The vehicle landed in dense vegetation near a riverbed.

"The car ended up on its wheels and caught on fire, which caused a small brush fire," officer Brian Pennings said Sunday.

Firefighters quickly knocked down the flames and made the grim discovery. "All four bodies were still in the vehicle, none were ejected," said Santee Fire Chief Mike Rottenberg.

The intersection was closed for several hours as the CHP investigated. They said the bodies were charred and immediate identification was not possible.

Phillip Pretty, 52 of Santee was in the Ford Explorer. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance Friday with moderate injuries.

The San Diego medical examiner’s office confirmed the identity of one crash victim as that of Mahala Saylor of Chula Vista Monday morning. Mahala was sitting in the right rear passenger seat at the time of the accident.

Friends of the 13-year old have set up a memorial page for the teenager on Facebook. Mahala was scheduled to begin Mater Dei Catholic School this week.

Pennings told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he didn't know where the Saylors were heading or why they were driving a loaned vehicle. He also couldn't say if the car came from a rental company, dealership or mechanic shop, according to the paper.

The San Diego County medical examiner's office was not able to confirm the identities of the other three crash victims as of Sunday.
 

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