Hit-and-run Driver Snarls Laguna Traffic

Civilian traffic officer Joy Butterfield keeps traffic away from the collision scene Thursday. Photo by Scott Sanchezh

Three people suffered minor injuries in two separate four-car pileups less than a mile apart that temporarily blocked lanes of Coast Highway Thursday afternoon near Nyes Place.

The 73-year-old Laguna Beach driver whose vehicle caused the collisions was suffering from a medical emergency and was not charged or arrested, police said. Though he was tested for drugs and alcohol, more than likely he had suffered a stroke or a diabetic reaction, said Lt. Jason Kravetz.

The driver, Lee Henry Vuille, was listed in fair condition at Mission Viejo’s Mission Hospital on Friday, but a hospital spokeswoman could provide no details about his medical condition.

Vuille’s vehicle initially hit four cars parked on Coast Highway near Diamond Street about 2:54 p.m. The vehicle proceeded southbound, colliding with four more cars at the intersection of Nyes Place and Coast Highway, Kravetz said.

Eyewitness Linda Saville, of Laguna Beach, said “I thought it was a police chase, except there were no police.”

Heading southbound after shopping, Saville was slowing in the inside lane to stop at the Diamond Street intersection behind another vehicle when she heard a collision involving a parked car to her right. The driver of the vehicle put the car in reverse and hit another vehicle before heading south, she said.

“I froze. Nobody moved,” said Saville, who watched the fleeing car weave in and out of northbound traffic, forcing oncoming vehicles off the road.

With the driver ahead of her calling in the license number of the fleeing vehicle, Saville proceeded home southbound. Within 20 seconds, though, she arrived at the Nyes intersection to again encounter the vehicle involved in the earlier hit-and-run, now broadside after rear-ending cars stopped at a signal.

A 4-year-old girl and a 31-year-old passenger in one of the vehicles both suffered minor injuries and were transported for treatment, Kravetz said. “No one was seriously injured.”



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