Two people were killed, and six others were hurt – including two children – when a big rig crashed on State Route 125 in La Mesa Wednesday, drifting across lanes in both directions before coming to a halt in a jackknife position.
California Highway Patrol officials said the big rig was getting onto the southbound SR-125 transition from westbound Interstate 8 at around 2:30 p.m. when the driver, for unknown reasons, lost control.
The driver smashed through the metal guardrail on the freeway, crossing lanes onto northbound SR-125 before crashing into a concrete divider wall.
The big rig plowed into a green Chevy Aveo that was traveling in the fast lane on the northbound SR-125 transition ramp to eastbound I-8, and then hit a black Kia Sorrento traveling in the No. 3 lane. Both the Chevy and the Kia were mangled from the impact.
The portion of the freeway where the crash took place was closed down to traffic immediately following the crash.
CHP said two adults died in the crash. Six others, including two little girls and four adults, were injured. Some of the victims were taken to local hospitals.
The victims who died were two women inside the green Chevy. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's (ME) Office has now identified the driver of the Chevy as Ramona resident Nancy Bauerlein, 57.
The passenger has not yet been identified by the ME, but Bauerlein's son, Timothy Thompson, told NBC 7 the victim was his sister and Bauerlein's daughter, Jennifer Thompson-Campbell, 29. He said the mother and daughter both worked at the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest on Naval Air Station North Island. Thompson-Campbell's 30th birthday would've been next week.
The two girls who were hurt, plus two adults, were inside the black SUV, according to CHP spokesman Kevin Pearlstein.
There were two people in the big rig. The female driver and the passenger suffered minor to moderate injuries.
The two girls, ages 4 and 6, were taken to Rady Children's Hospital. Paramedics said the 6-year-old girl suffered a broken neck and was not breathing when medics first arrived at the scene of the crash. By the time she reached the hospital, medics said the child was breathing on her own.
The girl's mother was not injured; she was able to ride in the ambulance with her daughter, paramedics told NBC 7.
The 4-year-old suffered minor injuries. News helicopter footage showed a firefighter tending to the girl just before 3:15 p.m. The firefighter could be seen comforting the girl while carrying her away from the wreckage.
He walked with the child over to a fire engine and eventually put her down to give her water. Moments later, she was back in his arms, resting her head on the firefighter's shoulder.
The 4-year-old girl was in a car seat, the 6-year-old was was not, Pearlstein said.
In the aftermath of the collision, pieces of the wrecked Kia, Chevy, and big rig were strewn about the shoulder of the freeway.
The front end of the jackknifed big rig was pressed up against the back end of Bauerlein's Chevy Aveo. The car was smashed, and its rear window was blown out. The front windshield was shattered.
Several other cars stopped along the shoulder near the crash site.
The big rig had the Swift Transportation logo on its side. Swift Vice President of Marketing and Communications said their safety team is investigating the crash.
"Our Safety team is investigating everything as thoroughly and as quickly as they can and I’m told we will have someone on the scene as soon as possible," Cozette Phifer said in an email to NBC 7. "Our entire company is heartbroken whenever there is any kind of accident involving one of our Drivers."
The investigation is ongoing. CHP investigators said the driver of the big rig, a 34-year-old woman from Marrieta, Georgia, was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the deadly crash. Her name was not released, pending the investigation.