A chain reaction of car crashes believed to be triggered by a drunken driver just after midnight Friday in California’s Central Valley killed three UC Davis students, the university said in a statement. The suspected drunken driver also died in the crash that involved at least six vehicles near Manteca, the California Highway Patrol said.
The university identified the students as Minkyu Geon of Hong Kong; Margarette Guinto Ventura of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Codi Orland Mateo of Pasco, Washington.
Geon was finishing his junior year as as an electrical engineering major, Ventura was a sophomore studying biology, and Mateo, a senior, had nearly completed a degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, UC Davis said.
“We are absolutely devastated and struggling to come to terms with such immense loss,” Gary S. May, the university's chancellor, said in the statement.
The first collision happened at about 12:30 a.m. on March 31 when a 32-year-old woman, who officials believe was under the influence of alcohol, crashed her Honda Accord into the back of a U-Haul truck pulling a trailer while driving north on Highway 99 near French Camp Road, CHP spokesperson Ruben Jones told SFGATE.
The woman did not stop as the U-Haul collided with another vehicle, CHP said. Jones said that she pulled a U-turn and drove south in the northbound lanes of Highway 99, hitting a Subaru Impreza head-on with three students inside. The Honda stopped and the woman died in the collision, CHP said.
The impact pushed the Subaru in a counterclockwise direction into another lane, where it side-swiped a GMC Sierra pickup. The driver of the pickup pulled over and was uninjured. The Subaru was then hit head-on by the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban, who CHP said was also driving under the influence of alcohol. The CHP report said that Subaru and the Suburban were found in the center divider.
The students in the Subaru were all pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver of the Suburban was taken to a local hospital with injuries, CHP said.
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