San Diego

4 Killed in Overnight Crashes, Alcohol Suspected in Three Crashes

Alcohol is suspected in three of the crashes, officials say

Four people, including an active duty service member, have died in fatal crashes overnight Saturday into Sunday, officials said; alcohol is suspected in three of the crashes. 

The first crash happened at approximately 7 p.m. in Ramona when a three-car crash trapped one victim and prompted a Sig Alert for the north and southbound lanes of State Route 67 at Cloudy Moon Drive, Sheriff's Deputies said. 

Deputies said a full-size Chevrolet pickup truck, driven by a 51-year-old man, was heading northbound on SR-67 when it veered into the southbound lane. 

The truck hit the rear quarter panel of a late model Buick sedan and struck a Mini Cooper head-on, deputies said. 

Lucas Riley was a fixture in the San Diego community and spent his time helping others with a ministry group. NBC 7’s Artie Ojeda has more on his tragic death.

The Mini Cooper caught fire and by the time emergency crews arrived on scene, they could not extricate the victim due to the intensity of the flames, deputies said. The driver died on scene. 

The Buick driver suffered minor injuries, and the driver of the truck was taken to Palomar Hospital and treated for a broken wrist. 

The driver of the truck, who has not yet been identified, was arrested on alcohol-related charges, including felony vehicular manslaughter. Officials said they reportedly found beer cans inside the truck. 

“Don’t drink and drive,” Sgt. Buck Ward of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said.

Point Loma Nazarene University issued a statement, saying the victim was a talented art major who graduated last year. It read:

“The PLNU community is deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss. We share in this grief and our prayers are with [his] family, fiancé and friends. [He] studied Art Education at PLNU and was a very talented sculptor. Most recently he was the chief assistant to PLNU art professor, David Adey, in the installation of a permanent public art piece for the County of San Diego. According to Adey, he was incredibly talented, hardworking and a kind and gentle soul who will be greatly missed.”

His work is on display at the new Cedar Street Parking Garage in Little Italy.

The second crash happened early Sunday morning at approximately 1 a.m. on Camino Ruiz in Mira Mesa, San Diego Police said. 

A 21-year-old man was driving northbound in his Honda four-door sedan, approaching Zapata Avenue, when a 19-year-old behind the wheel of an Acura pulled out onto Camino Ruiz. 

The 19-year-old driver was t-boned and taken to the hospital, where she died. The man was transported from the scene with non-life threatening injuries. 

Alcohol is suspected in the crash. 

“So sad because such a young life cut short,” neighbor Linda Morenus said.

A third person died in in Mira Mesa early Sunday, the result of a hit-and-run crash. 

The crash happened on the 6600 block of Mira Mesa Boulevard at a hotel, where the driver and pedestrian involved in the crash were both celebrating a birthday. The two were seen drinking alcohol prior to the crash. 

Witnesses told police the victim, identified as Orange County resident Jonathan Carlyle Merkley, 34, tried to stop the suspect from driving by getting in front of the vehicle because he thought she was too drunk to drive. 

The suspect got behind the wheel and hit the Merkley in the parking lot before fleeing the scene, police said. 

Video of the scene on Mira Mesa Boulevard in Sorrento Valley early Sunday, August 21, 2016.

The victim was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died. The driver has been identified, but police are still searching for the her whereabouts.

"I hope she turns herself in," hotel visitor Kristina Morales said. "It's not just their life they're risking, it's everybody else's around them."

Several hours later early Sunday shortly after 3 a.m., officials responded to a crash on Interstate 5 near the end of the eastbound Coronado Bay transition.

A 24-year-old active duty service member with the U.S. Navy was behind the wheel of his Ford Mustang crashed into a guardrail, CHP officers said. The man, who has not yet been identified, died at the scene. 

Anyone with information related to the above incidents is encouraged to call the San Diego Police or contact Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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