More details have been provided about a tragedy early Thursday on southbound Interstate 15 at Lake Street in Lake Elsinore caused by a wrong-way driver that resulted in his death and the injury of two others.
The driver, Jeffrey Murphy, 36, of Fullerton was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the 1:04 a.m. crash involving multiple vehicles—including a Peterbilt semi-tractor—according to officials with the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office and California Highway Patrol.
A 20-year-old San Diego woman, identified by the CHP as Brooke White, suffered major injuries in the incident and was transported to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, according to Travis Monks, information officer for CHP Riverside Area.
A Murrieta man, Elbert Barbar, 58, suffered minor injuries in the crash, the officer stated in a news release.
Although the wreckage that involved a total of six vehicles remained under investigation, Monks said preliminary information revealed that at about 1:05 a.m., Murphy, driving a 2002 Honda CRV, was traveling at an undetermined speed northbound in the southbound fast lane at Lake Street when he struck Barbar, who was going about 70 mph in a 2004 Honda Accord in the same lane, head on.
At the same time, the 50-year-old driver of a Peterbilt semi-tractor was going about 55 mph in the No. 2 southbound lane, behind the Accord.
“Three vehicles were parked on the right shoulder for a non-emergency stop southbound I-15 north of Lake St.,” Monks said. “A female passenger [White] of one of the parked vehicles was standing outside on the driver’s side (traffic side) of the lead parked vehicle (2003 U-Haul truck).”
The Honda CRV become airborne and overturned into the No. 2 lane directly in the path of the Peterbilt—the impact of which threw Murphy from the CRV, according to Monks.
The Peterbilt spun out in a clockwise direction toward the right shoulder, striking White as she stood on the right shoulder near the U-Haul truck, Monks said.
Two other vehicles that were heading southbound at the time were struck by flying debris, he said.
All lanes of southbound Interstate 15—from Indian Truck Trail to Lake Street—were closed from 1:17 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. due to the incident.
CHP had yet to determine what may have caused Murphy to be driving on the wrong side of the freeway.
ORIGINAL POST 5:30 a.m. Oct. 17:
All lanes on southbound Interstate 15 between Indian Truck Trail and Lake Street in Lake Elsinore were re-opened as of 5:48 a.m. Thursday following a fatal accident involving a wrong-way driver, according to California Highway Patrol.
The accident involving several vehicles—ultimately leaving the wrong-way driver dead—was reported just after 1 a.m., according to Riverside area CHP Lt. Tim Noyes.
"At about 1:04 a.m. we received a call of a wrong-way driver," Noyes said. "The original call came in as a wrong-way driver heading northbound on the southbound 15 at Nichols Road."
Callers described the car as a small white SUV, possibly a Honda, that was traveling at high speeds up to 100 mph, according to CHP's Web page.
Noyes said CHP immediately started its response and within a minute it received another call that there had been a crash in southbound lanes just north of Lake Street.
"It appears the wrong-way driver sideswiped a car and then hit a big rig head on," Noyes said. "There was a total of six vehicles involved."
Another person who had pulled off the road 30 seconds prior and exited their vehicle was also hit and injured, according to Noyes.
The lieutenant said it had not yet been determined if alcohol or drugs were factors in the incident.
The identity of the deceased wrong-way driver, a male, was pending as of publication time.
The accident forced a more than four-hour closure of all southbound freeway lanes.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
—Daniel Lane contributed to this report.