A registered nurse suspected of speeding a Mercedes through a Windsor Hills intersection, sparking a fiery crash that killed six people — including an infant, a pregnant woman and her fetus — remained hospitalized and under arrest Saturday on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.
The driver, Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, survived the Thursday afternoon crash and was hospitalized with “moderate” injuries at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, according to the California Highway Patrol.
She was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, CHP officials said. There was no word on whether drugs or alcohol factored into the crash.
A final determination of charges will be made by the District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney George GascÃ³n issued a statement Friday saying his office will be “working with law enforcement throughout the weekend,” and the investigation could be presented to his office for consideration of charges “as early as Monday.”
“Preliminary investigation indicates Nicole Lorraine Linton was driving a dark colored Mercedes, traveling southbound on La Brea Avenue at a high rate of speed,” a CHP statement said.
“While driving the Mercedes, Linton proceeded through a red light and collided into multiple vehicles traveling eastbound and westbound on Slauson Avenue. As a result of this collision, multiple parties were ejected and two vehicles were fully engulfed in flames. Following the collision, involved parties were transported to (Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center) by ambulance and six individuals were declared deceased on scene,” the CHP reported.
“Due to extensive fire damage, it is unknown at this time the make and model of the involved vehicles and which vehicles the involved parties were traveling in,” the CHP reported.
The Los Angeles Times reported Linton is a traveling nurse from Texas, and KHOU-11 reported Saturday that she is from Houston. A LinkedIn page for Nicole Lorraine Linton states she is a traveling nurse employed by a health-care staffing agency, and has been working in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Kaiser Permanente issued a statement Friday saying, “Everyone at Kaiser Permanente is deeply saddened by Thursday’s horrific crash. It’s impossible to imagine the pain those involved are experiencing. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy. At this time, we are not able to comment on what has been reported as a criminal investigation.”
The pregnant woman who died in the crash was identified Friday by the coroner’s office as 23-year-old Asherey Ryan of Los Angeles. She and her male fetus were among the victims killed in the crash that occurred just before 1:40 p.m. Thursday at La Brea and Slauson avenues, near Ladera Park.
According to Ryan’s family, the woman’s year-old son, Alonzo Quintero, was also killed, along with Ryan’s boyfriend, who was the father of her unborn son. Ryan’s boyfriend was driving the car that was struck, according to a video posted online by Ryan’s sister, Sha’seana Kerr.
Kerr identified him as Reynold Lester, 24, of Los Angeles who worked as a security guard.
In the video, Kerr said Ryan was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when the crash occurred.
The family was planning to name the unborn infant, a male, Armani Lester, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
“She left the house at 1:30. She woke me up,” Kerr said. “She woke me up and told me she was going to go to her doctor’s appointment, that she loved me and she’ll be right back.”
She said that 15 minutes later, she saw video of the car crash.
“And for some reason, as soon as I seen that video, it hit me. It felt different. I felt connected,” she said.
Kerr said she cried throughout the night.
“I didn’t sleep one bit,” she said. “I’m all cried out.”
A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the family had raised over $106,000 as of Saturday afternoon.
On Friday, friends and family gathered at the crash site to remember and say goodbye to the victims. Lighted candles dotted a memorial near the site of the fiery crash.
Dramatic surveillance video from the scene showed the Mercedes plowing through the 35 mph zone on La Brea at a speed authorities estimate neared 100 mph — speeding through a red light at Slauson and broad-siding a vehicle. The crash ignited an inferno as the sedan struck by the Mercedes was pushed into at least one other vehicle, and both wound up against a gas station sign on the corner. A trail of fire was left burning in the intersection as the vehicles struck by the speeding driver were engulfed in flames.
CHP reports indicate eight vehicles, including Linton’s, were involved in the collision. The heavily damaged Mercedes ended up near a bench down the street.
According to the fire department and the CHP, three adults and one infant died in the collision, and there were multiple ejections due to the crash. Ryan’s male fetus was also being counted among the deceased.
The CHP reported a sixth victim was later found dead in the burned wreckage of one vehicle, but further information about that person was not immediately available.
Eight others were injured in the collision, including seven occupants of a Chevrolet Traverse. The 33-year-old driver, a year-old boy and three teenagers suffered moderate injuries, while two other teens inside the vehicle had only minor injuries.
The eighth victim — the 19-year-old driver of an Audi A3 — also suffered minor injuries.
Community activists gathered at the intersection Friday, adding to a growing memorial of candles and flowers for the victims of the crash.
“This is a catastrophic situation that has taken place in our community,” activist Eddie Jones told reporters. “I cried all night, because someone innocent who did not deserve to lose their life, lost their life.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a nearby resident and president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, told reporters the intersection has been historically dangerous with speeding vehicles, as well as the scene of occasional street takeovers.
Veronica Esquivel, 40, told the Daily News she was about to pump gas at one of the intersection’s four stations when the crash occurred.
“I heard the collision. I saw the fire … you see the fire at a gas station I just immediately thought explosion,” Esquivel said. “I saw things flying in the air … I didn’t know if something was going to come through and hit me.”
The intersection of La Brea and Slauson avenues reopened around 3:30 a.m. Friday.