A registered nurse has been arrested and will be booked on vehicular manslaughter charges in the fiery Windsor Hills crash that killed five people, including a pregnant woman, law enforcement sources confirmed to The Times on Friday.
Investigators have arrested Nicole Linton, 37, who they said was driving the speeding Mercedes-Benz that smashed through traffic at the intersection of La Brea and Slauson avenues. Linton is currently in the hospital and is cooperating with California Highway Patrol investigators, sources said.
The news of her arrest came as the medical examiner released the name of the pregnant woman who died, Asherey Ryan, 23.
Ryan, 8 1/2 months pregnant, was with her boyfriend on her way to a doctor's appointment when the Mercedes crashed into their car. She and her boyfriend died, as did their 1-year-old baby and Ryan's unborn child, according to Ryan's sister. The county coroner has not yet released official identifications of anyone besides Ryan.
"I already cried. I cried. I didnt sleep one bit. I'm all cried out," Sha'seana Kerr, who identified herself as Ryan's sister, said on Instagram. "We have to bury four people."
When Kerr saw the video of the crash shortly after it happened, she knew something was not right.
"As soon as I see that video, it hit home, it hit different. I felt connected," she posted. "Her taking my sister my nephews my brother in law. She took my son's only cousin. We are so deeply hurt."
Authorities are checking Linton's bloodwork to determine if she was under the influence at the time of the crash, according to two law enforcement sources.
She is to be formally charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney on Monday. A family member of Linton's declined to speak to a Times reporter on Friday.
Linton is likely to be charged with killing the unborn child as well as the five others.
Eight people were also injured in the crash.
Surveillance video shows a Mercedes-Benz barreling down La Brea at a high speed as dozens of cars cross the intersection on Slauson. The Mercedes runs a red light and slams into cars in the intersection, then bursts into flames and hurtles into a light pole, where it comes to rest.
After the crash, a streak of fire burned on the ground.
Smoke could be seen billowing from miles away.
Officer Franco Pepi, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson, said Thursday afternoon that three adults, including a pregnant woman, and an infant were killed in the crash.
Authorities later found another person's remains inside one of the burned vehicles, he said. That person's gender or age weren't known Thursday night.
Authorities took eight people to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for treatment, he said. Of those injured, six were teens and one suffered major injuries.
A woman who did not want to be named told The Times a Mercedes-Benz hit her car as she was leaving a United Oil gas station.
"I was getting out, had got gas," she said. "All of a sudden that Mercedes is coming at me on ... fire. I didn’t have any time to think about it. It hit my car. I veered, hit the bench on the side."
The crash caused her to fear a gasoline-fueled explosion, she told The Times.
Nearby, Linton's Mercedes-Benz had crashed into the curb and come to rest.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but the CHP spokesperson said investigators determined the Mercedes-Benz was traveling "at a high rate of speed" and ran a red light while traveling south on La Brea.
At least six vehicles were involved in the crash, three of which were engulfed in flames, Pepi said. The others sustained moderate damage.
Mourners began to gather at the crash site Friday. Road crews were replacing the traffic signals that were damaged by the crash. Witnesses described a horrific scene.
Eran Hall has worked at La Brea Gas across the street for about eight months and has seen several car crashes, but never like the one that unfolded Thursday.
"Everyone was just shocked," Hall told The Times on Friday morning. "Some people started to run away from the gas station because of all the flames. Other people started helping the drivers in the other cars that were pushed to the side."
At least two people ran out with fire extinguishers, Hall said.
Henry Sanchez, who works at the Sinclair gas station, said the flames were out of control.
"At that point it was just too late for people to do anything," Sanchez said.
Before the crash, Sanchez heard the scraping sound of the car coming down the hill.
"You hear the tires grinding," Sanchez said. "The sound stuck with me."
Noel Senior who works at Little Kingston Jamaican heard a loud boom and when he stepped outside his business and looked down the street he saw a column of flames lapping up at the gas station sign. "There was nothing we could have done. Nobody was going to come from the fire," Senior said.
"Everyone was going through a process of not really knowing what to do and helping as best as they can," said Jamarcus Robinson, who had popped into the United Oil for a Powerade while going for a run. "We saw a baby. There was a car seat in the street and a baby not too far out."
"I could barely sleep at night," he added.
Veronica Esquival told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that a baby came to rest in the intersection. “One of the workers came and saw me with the baby and took the baby out of my hands. Somebody tried to resuscitate the baby, but the baby was gone,” she said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.