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UPDATED: 2 Women Fighting for Life after Monday Crash

The five-vehicle wreck injured five, sending three to the hospital with moderate to major injuries

An empty big rig leaving the south I-5 barreled through a stoplight on the Avenida Pico offramp Monday morning and smashed into a Volvo and BMW, sending three people to the hospital.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the occupants of the Volvo--two San Clemente women ages 23 and 25--were still fighting for their lives at Mission Hospital, said CHP Officer Chris Goodwin.

The driver and passenger of the BMW left the hospital by Tuesday afternoon, Goodwin said.

The big-rig driver sustained minor injuries as well, Goodwin said.

The ramps and Pico was closed until around 2:30 p.m. Monday as officers investigated the crash, a CHP helicopter took aerial photos and Caltrans workers assessed damage to traffic signals demolished in the wreck, according to California Highway Patrol Capt. Sandra Houston.

In the back seat of the BMW was a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old, but they appeared uninjured. Houston said their child safety seats likely saved their lives.

It was unclear what caused the big rig's failure to stop at the redlight, but alcohol was ruled out as a factor in the crash, Goodwin said Tuesday.

Mary Johnson, who works at the Burger Stop fast food restaurant near the Pico/I-5 junction, said she saw a woman in the front of the Volvo unconscious after the vehicles came to rest.

Matt Brommer, an employee of the Shell station right off the eastbound lanes of Avenida Pico, said he saw the accident; he rushed outside when he heard the big rig clip the first of two traffic signal posts.

"The semi driver, I don't know if he didn't have brakes or fell asleep or what," Brommer said.

The empty semi ran the red light at the ramp, clipping an SUV that sustained minor damage and demolishing a traffic signal. The truck T-boned the Volvo on the passenger side, causing the Volvo to spin into the BMW, which then clipped a Coca-Cola truck.

The drivers of the trucks and the SUV sustained no injuries. The Coca-Cola truck was drivable, Houston said, and the driver of the initial SUV involved in the wreck was able to drive the vehicle away; he had left by 11:30 a.m.

Both the Volvo and BMW had made turns off the I-5 northbound exit ramp to head west on Pico, Houston said.

The accident occurred around 10:45 a.m. Monday. A SigAlert was issued around 11 a.m.

Goodwin urged any witnesses at the scene who did not talk to CHP investigators Monday to call the patrol at 949-487-4000.

Mara February 06, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I pray to God that those 2 HS girls in the Volvo make it. I was at the light at witnessed the whole thing. It was something so insane, like from a movie.
Penny Arévalo February 07, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Any update Adam? Mara's got me worried about those students.
Mara February 07, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Adam- I was at the scene and watched it happen. The two girls in the Volvo are the two in critical condition and had to be cut out of the Volvo. The family of 4 in the BMW are home and safe.
Adam Townsend February 07, 2012 at 10:50 PM
You're correct; this was correctly stated in the story, but I mixed it up in my comment. I am deleting that comment.
Lindsey Hanson February 07, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Any news on how the two girls are doing?
Adam Townsend February 07, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Medical privacy laws prevent the hospitals from releasing specific information on the conditions of the victims, however, the investigating officer for the crash is visiting the victims at Mission Hospital this afternoon, and Officer Goodwin has promised to call us to let us know whether the victims are out of the woods.
Adam Townsend February 07, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Look for updates tonight.
Adam Townsend February 08, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Just talked to officer Goodwin. The women, San Clemente residents aged 23 and 25, are still in serious condition at Mission Hospital as of Tuesday afternoon.
Adam Townsend February 08, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Added this to the story.
Lindsey Hanson February 08, 2012 at 01:52 AM
SO sad!I hope they pull through. Please let us know if you hear any news on what the issue was with the semi.
ike haight February 08, 2012 at 07:26 PM
We are prying for your girls and family god bless .u.
Terry Robinson February 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Oh my ....as bad as this is just think what could have happened if school had just let out with all the kids who stand on those corners. Does anyone know if the truck lost it's air? There are no brakes marks and it doesn't appear that the driver tried to warn anyone by blowing horn and trucks lose the use of the horn when they have an air leak. So scary and sad. I do hope everyone will be ok.
Adam Townsend February 08, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Interesting thought. The only thing CHP investigators were able to tell me about what went wrong in the truck was that the driver was not drunk or high. The investigation is still ongoing.
desimal February 10, 2012 at 02:20 AM
When a truck loses its air, the brakes engage automatically. The air actually keeps the brakes off.
Terry Robinson February 11, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Hi desimal....my husband is a truck driver. Let me clarify here. The emergency brakes don't engage until there is 30 lbs of air. I said out of air and that was incorrect. If his low air warning light wasn't working he wouldn't have known he was low on air until it was too late. Sorry for the misunderstanding. There was a similar accidents many years ago on the southbound I-5 at El Camino Real exit and also in North Laguna on Cajon St.....very scary.
Terry Robinson February 11, 2012 at 03:59 PM
These is an update on the accident in the Feb. 9 Register. The truck driver and his passenger were from Montana. The seriously injured ladies are hanging in there. Sending prayers to all involved.
Robin Caserta April 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I think about this accident and pray for all involved. It has been a while now and just wanted to know if the two girls were okay? Does anyone know? Still praying for all. Robin

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