4 people killed, 4 others injured in California car crash

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2015 11:35 PM

FREEDOM, Calif. (AP) — A head-on crash left four people dead and four others seriously injured when a car packed with teens collided with a pickup truck in rural Santa Cruz County.

The black Mercedes sedan — a so-called party on wheels — crossed into oncoming traffic about 8 p.m. Sunday in Santa Cruz County, hitting a gray Ford F-150 head-on, California Highway Patrol Officer Brad Sadek told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1Eb0WWD).

The driver of the Mercedes and two of its six passengers died at the scene. Another Mercedes passenger was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. None of them wore seat belts, and their names haven't been released.

The driver was identified as Arturo Avalos, 22, of Watsonville. The front-seat passengers who died were Teresita Brady, 19, of Soquel and Osbaldo Melgoza-Ortiz, 18, of Watsonville, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. A 16-year-old girl who was in the back seat also was killed, but authorities have not released her name.

The 56-year-old man driving the truck and three other Mercedes passengers went to hospitals with major injuries and remained hospitalized Monday.

The crash is under investigation, but Sadek says alcohol or drugs may have been a factor.

Evidence of drinking was found at the crash site, Sadek said, and witnesses reported seeing the Mercedes swerving, crossing the double-yellow line and traveling at high speeds before the crash.

"It sounded a bit like there was a party going on in the car," Sadek told the newspaper. "The more people you pile into a car, it greatly increases your chances of being in a collision. This is an unfortunate situation of no seat belts and alcohol."

The wreck closed the road and left one vehicle overturned and another smoking. Firefighters tore apart the Mercedes to release the trapped victims.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com