Updated: Passenger Dies in Four-Car Pile-Up

The scene of the collision Sunday afternoon, Jan. 26, near Irvine Cove. Photo by Chris Trela
The scene of the collision Sunday afternoon, Jan. 26, near Irvine Cove. Photo by Chris Trela

An Irvine man died and six other people were injured in a four-car collision in Laguna Beach that resulted in the closure of a section of North Coast Highway in both directions for 10 hours on Sunday, Jan. 26, according to police.

The victims, whose injuries ranged from complaints of pain to severe trauma as a result of the collision, were dispersed to four hospitals within the county, police said.

The unidentified 27-year-old driver of a Honda that allegedly caused the collision sustained a severe injury, but is expected to survive, Capt. Jason Kravetz said. His passenger, Erik Valencia, 29, died at the scene, Kravetz said.

Four vehicles were involved in the 1:30 p.m. accident near the gated community of Irvine Cove, apparently caused by a poorly executed passing maneuver by the driver of the Honda around a car he was following northbound in the inside lane. He cut too closely in front of the car he passed and clipped it, which sent both vehicles into on-coming northbound traffic, Sgt. Louise Callus said.

The Honda was broadsided on the passenger side by a southbound GMC pickup and a fourth southbound vehicle caromed off of the others, with damage on both sides, Callus said.

Police declined to identify the Honda’s driver, who is now the subject of a homicide investigation. He was transported for treatment of head injuries to Mission Viejo’s Mission Hospital, said Kravetz.

Three passengers in the northbound second car all were treated for complaints of pain and released, Kravetz said.

Two passengers in the southbound GMC Sierra driven by a 24-year-old San Juan Capistrano woman both suffered fractured ribs; one also suffered a partially collapsed lung, he said. They were treated at UCI Medical Center and Western Medical Center.

Police had no further details about the driver and passenger of the fourth car, which was also headed south.

Newport Beach police assisted with the closure of southbound lanes near Crystal Cove State Park’s Reef Point, while Laguna police closed northbound lanes at San Joaquin Street, two blocks south of Emerald Bay.

Steps were taken to allow Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove residents to access their homes, Kravetz said.

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