Two killed in 5-car pileup on 605 Freeway in Whittier

WHITTIER — A 60-year-old Whittier man and a 67-year-old Baldwin Park man died in a five-car chain reaction crash on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway early Thursday, authorities said.
Officials withheld the names of the dead men pending confirmation their families had been notified, according to the California Highway Patrol. Three other drivers involved in the pileup were not hurt.
The fatal wreck took place shortly before 2:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes of the 605 Freeway at Whittier Boulevard, CHP Officer Joe Zizi said in a written statement. It involved five crashes, each about two minutes apart.
An 18-year-old Whittier woman was driving a Honda Civic when, “for reasons still under investigation,” her car struck the center divider wall, Zizi said. She got out of her car and ran to the freeway shoulder, leaving the crashed Honda in traffic lanes.
About two minutes later, the officer said, a Chrysler 300 being driven south on the 605 Freeway by the 60-year-old Whittier man struck the disabled Honda, Zizi said.
About two minutes after that, a southbound Toyota Camry being driven by the 67-year-old Baldwin Park man came upon the scene and struck the two vehicles that had already crashed, officials said.
After another two minutes, a 29-year-old San Pedro man driving an Acura RSX managed to avoid the wreckage in the roadway, but in doing so, his car overturned, Zizi said. It ultimately came to a rest on its wheels on the Whittier Boulevard offramp.
And a fifth crash took place two minutes later, authorities said, when a Honda Civic being driven by a 26-year-old Bellflower man, struck the first three vehicles that remained disabled in the southbound lanes of the 605 Freeway.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs did not initially appear to be a factor in the collision, officials said.
None of the three drivers showed signs of impairment, CHP Officer Al Perez said. An autopsy was pending on the two men who died, which would include testing for alcohol or other substances.
It was unclear why the series of drivers failed to see the disabled cars in front of them, leading to the fatal chain-reaction, the officer said.
As the investigation remained in its early stages, “It’s a question that we can’t answer,” Perez said.
The CHP described the weather conditions at the time of the wreck as cool, clear and dry.
“There were no weather conditions that would have obstructed views,” Perez said.
All southbound lanes of the freeway were shut down following the crash, and a Sig Alert remained in effect until after 6 a.m., according to CHP logs.
Perez said he thanked commuters for their understanding when freeways are blocked by major crashes involving complex scenes such as the one early Thursday.
“We appreciate the motoring public’s patience,” he said. “Remember that somebody’s family member was killed in this collision, and we need to do our due diligence, and give the family the best investigation possible.”
Officers from the Santa Fe Springs office of the CHP are handling the investigation.

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