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UPDATE: 2 dead, 9 injured in Interstate 5 pileup

Posted: September 4, 2012 8:44 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2012 6:47 p.m.

Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a multi-car pileup in the Grapevine stretch of southbound Interstate 5 in Gorman on Tuesday. Photo: Associated Press

GORMAN — A sport utility vehicle that may have been carrying a family back from the Labor Day holiday weekend crashed Tuesday on the Interstate 5 Grapevine north of Castaic, causing a chain-reaction pileup that killed a woman and a young girl and injured nine others.

The critical mountain pass between Southern and Central California was jammed for a mile or more after the collision that shut down southbound lanes around 5 a.m., California Highway Patrol officials said.

A 41-year-old woman driving the SUV southbound hit the center divider in the Gorman area, hurling herself and an 11-year-old girl out of the car. They were pronounced dead at the scene, CHP Lt. Craig Whitty said. It wasn’t known whether they were wearing seat belts.

The pre-dawn accident spawned others as cars hit wreckage and each other or spun out trying to avoid crashing into the SUV.

“From that point on, there are at least four more passenger cars and at least one big-rig involved in continuous collisions,” Whitty said.

Four people were critically injured and five received minor injuries, Los Angeles County fire officials said.
Their identities were not released, but the injured included a grandmother in the SUV and three girls, ages 2, 12 and 16, authorities said.

Southbound lanes were shut for more than two hours so helicopters could land and take away the injured.

Fire Department Supervisor Cheryl Sims said one helicopter transported two adults, including one grandmother, to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. The other helicopter took three children to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“Four others went by ground with minor injures to the hospital,” CHP spokeswoman Shelly Pruett said. They were also taken to Henry Mayo.

Freeway traffic remained halted as choppers took their injured from the scene. CHP officers finally opened the shoulder so that thousands of backed-up cars could begin creeping through the pass.

Lanes were not entirely reopened until after 11 a.m.

Morning commuter traffic may have been swelled by people returning from Labor Day vacations.

“I did see a lot of people towing trailers,” Whitty said.

The holiday also may have played a role in the crash, although the cause remained under investigation.

“It was a family loaded in the car. We think they were probably coming back from a long holiday weekend,” Whitty said. “At this point we’re thinking the driver may have been fatigued.”

Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control officers also were sent to the collision site because a dog was in one of the crashed vehicles.

“The dog is in our care,” said Evelina Villa of animal control.

“At this time, it doesn’t appear that he’s hurt,” she said. He was taken to the  Castaic Animal Shelter and scheduled for an examination by veterinarians, she said.

Interstate 5, one of the state’s major north-south corridors, carries a heavy mix of truck and car traffic over a mountain pass rising to an elevation topping 4,100 feet about 50 miles north of Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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