A Culver City police detective was one of two men killed in a wrong-way crash Wednesday morning on the 10 Freeway, according to the CHP.
The fiery crash in the Palms area shut down several lanes at the start of the morning commute and backed up traffic for miles. A wrong-way driver was traveling in eastbound lanes just moments before the crash occurred, CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.
Investigators said the wrong-way driver -- a 21-year-old Van Nuys man -- struck the police detective on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway just west of National Boulevard. The crash was reported at about 5 a.m.
Police and fire crews on the freeway paused and saluted late Wednesday morning when the flag-draped body of the officer was removed from the wreckage and loaded into an ambulance.
Luevano said an afternoon news conference was being planned, to be conducted jointly by CHP and Culver City police officers.
KFWB reporter Pete Demetriou was a witness. He was driving eastbound on the 10 freeway, and the wrong-way driver was headed toward him. Demetriou said he avoided the car and called 911 immediately, but he was sure the driver would hit someone any second.
The deceased motorists' names were withheld, pending notification of relatives. It was unclear whether anyone else was injured in the crash, Villalobos said.
Traffic on the eastbound side was backed up to Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, Villalobos said, describing a backup of about four miles.
A short time after the collision, at least one vehicle caught fire, and Los Angeles firefighters were summoned to the scene, Villalobos said.
At 11:30 a.m., all lanes on the eastbound 10 Freeway were closed. One westbound lane was closed. The closures were expected to remain in effect unti 1 p.m.