US Marine Killed in Grisly Wrong-Way Crash ID'd

A 19-year-old military service member from Utah and the alleged wrong-way driver were killed in the crash

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A 19-year-old U.S. Marine killed when a wrong-way driver reportedly evading police slammed head-on into his vehicle was identified Wednesday.

Matthew Ryan Adams, an active duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, was struck and killed just after midnight Tuesday as he drove in northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near the Las Flores Drive exit.

A spokesperson for the 1st Marine Logistics Group confirmed the death of one of their Marines.

"Our hearts are with the Marines and Sailors of 1st Transportation Battalion, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our Marine," said Brig. Gen. Bobbi Shea. "We will dedicate all necessary resources to provide help and comfort to those affected by this tragedy."

The California Highway Patrol said a man driving a black truck, identified Tuesday as 42-year-old Christian Zurita, was evading Oceanside Police when he entered northbound I-5 in the wrong direction.

Police backed off the brief chase when Zurita entered the freeway, OPD said. Less than 10 minutes later, the wrong-way crash was reported.

"We could see, as soon as he passed us, he crashed and just a big explosion, just bad," said witness Zach Leja. "He was going so fast, though, just in the wrong way."

Both Adams and Zurita were pronounced dead at the scene. Their mangled vehicles -- the black truck balancing on the center median -- were left at the scene for hours as CHP investigated what happened.

The only person to survive the crash was a 35-year-old man from San Diego, a passenger in the black truck who has not yet been identified. The man was pulled from the wreckage and transported to Scripps La Jolla Medical Center with minor injuries, according to Oceanside Police.

The incident began over a "traffic infraction," which led to the pursuit with OPD, the agency said. Officers on the ground backed off once the driver entered the freeway in the wrong direction but a helicopter continued to track the driver from overhead.

It was not clear if drugs or alcohol were considered factors in the crash or what caused the driver to enter the freeway in the wrong direction in the first place.

NBC 7's Bridget Naso spoke to community members about the tragic loss.
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