Alcohol and unsafe speed were the primary causes of a Dana Point crash that killed three Camp Pendleton-based U.S. Marines and left a fourth serviceman fighting for his life, a sheriff's spokesman said today.
The rain-slick roadway was a lesser contributing factor to the crash that occurred at 2:05 a.m. Tuesday, said Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
A make-shift memorial has been placed at the scene that lies directly on the border of Laguna Niguel and Dana Point where well-wishers have been leaving flowers and other items to honor the men.
Amormino said the lone survivor, who was behind the wheel, remains in extremely critical condition at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.
The Marines were in a Dodge Stratus that crashed into a tree at Golden Lantern Street just past Terra Vista. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to cut through the wreckage to get to the servicemen, who were all in their early 20s, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone.
The two men in the back seat were declared dead at the scene, and the driver and another man in the front passenger seat were taken to Mission Hospital, where the passenger was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
The Stratus was northbound on Golden Lantern at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control of the car, which hit a curb before slamming into a tree just past Terra Vista, Amormino said. The names of the victims were expected to be released late this afternoon by military officials.