A wrong-way driver and another motorist were killed when their vehicles collided head-on Saturday on Sand Canyon Avenue.
The accident occurred when the driver of a GMC pickup crossed the center divider and hit a Volvo station wagon as it traveled south. The driver of the pickup, identified as John Paul Renzi, 42, of Trabuco Canyon, and the driver of the Volvo, a woman, were killed.
The woman’s three children were hospitalized after the crash at 12:40 p.m.
One of the children, an 8-year-old girl, was in serious condition at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. The two younger children, 6- and 2-year-old girls, were being treated at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana for skull fractures. The youngest also suffered a fractured left leg, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The two older children and the mother were wearing seat belts, and the toddler was secured in a car seat. CHP officials said those precautions likely saved the children’s lives.
The names of the woman and of the children weren’t released. Authorities were trying to reach her husband.
CHP officer Angel Johnson said it appeared that the woman and the children had moved to California in March. The family lived at Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, although her husband still is stationed in Virginia.
Renzi, driving a 1991 GMC Sierra pickup and not wearing a seat belt, was headed north on Sand Canyon from Irvine Center Drive at speeds ranging from 5 to 70 mph, Johnson said. The CHP didn’t know why he was driving erratically.
Renzi’s pickup crossed the center divider into the outermost southbound lane, struck the Volvo, flipped and landed in a northbound lane. The Volvo came to rest on the dirt shoulder.
CHP officials praised Staci Steward, a passing motorist, for getting the children out of the car and staying with them until paramedics arrived.
It took firefighters more than two hours to cut the children’s mother out of the smashed 1989 Volvo 740 station wagon.
More specific speed estimates weren’t immediately available; the speed limit on Sand Canyon, which has two lanes in each direction, is 50 mph.
Another pickup also was struck by Renzi’s vehicle just before Trabuco. The driver of the second truck, Jim Cully of Twentynine Palms, was not injured.
After the crash, Sand Canyon was closed between Trabuco and Irvine Boulevard for more than three hours.
COLOR PHOTO:MAP; Caption: SMASHUP: Firefighters use the Jaws of Life to extricate a body from the wreckage of a station wagon Saturday in Irvine. In the background is a pickup that also was involved in the accident on Sand Canyon Avenue. // MAP – Site of accident; Credit: Ygnacio Nanetti
Copyright Orange County Register May 16, 1993