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Speed cited in fatal O.C. crash; passengers didn't wear seat belts

August 9, 2011 |  1:28 pm

Bp An SUV carrying a group of relatives home from a church service at the Crystal Cathedral was traveling at a high rate of speed when it rolled over and caught fire while exiting the 5 Freeway in Buena Park, killing three passengers and injuring two others, authorities said.

Most of the passengers were not wearing seat belts when the driver lost control of the Ford Excursion on the Beach Boulevard offramp from the northbound side of the freeway about 10:17 p.m. Monday, California Highway Patrol Officer Ray Payton said.

The vehicle rolled across the guardrail and another ramp before coming to rest in an empty lot and catching fire.

Elda Nava-Mayo, 24, Angela Prado, 49, and Sara Flores, 40, all from Downey, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, identified by CHP officials as 32-year-old Ruth Nava-Torres, was rescued from the burning vehicle by a bystander, officials said. She and a 17-year-old female passenger were taken to UC Irvine Medical Center with severe injuries.

"Unfortunately, most of the passengers were not wearing their seat belts, which caused them to be ejected from the vehicle," Payton said. A preliminary investigation, he said, "has attributed the crash to a high rate of speed on the offramp."

No other vehicles were involved and alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

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-- Tony Barboza

Image: A map of where three passengers died in a car crash in Buena Park. Source: Google Maps

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