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Three Whittier siblings among 5 killed in I-5 collision in Newhall Pass

April 12, 2010 |  5:07 pm
Three small children from Whittier, siblings, were among five people who died and six others who were injured on Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass after a pickup spun out of control on the rain-slicked freeway and set off a multiple-vehicle collision, authorities said Monday.

The three-vehicle accident occurred shortly before midnight Sunday and shut down southbound lanes  for much of the day in the wake of a storm that dumped an inch or more of rain in areas of Southern California.

A 54-year-old Frazier Park man was driving the 1996 Mazda pickup south just north of the 14 Freeway when he veered into the center divider and overturned in the face of oncoming traffic, the California Highway Patrol said.

A Nissan Altima with six people, including the three children, was traveling behind the pickup at about 60 mph. The driver hit the brakes and veered to the right but was unable to avoid smashing into the overturned pickup, CHP Officer John Lutz said.

A Chevrolet Suburban traveling about 50 mph struck the Nissan from behind. It was unclear whether the three children, riding in the back seat, were properly restrained, according to Lutz.

The siblings were identified as Xochitl Hernandez, 5, Edgar Hernandez, 8, and Cynthia Hernandez, 9, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said.

A 16-year-old boy also riding in the back seat of the Nissan was also killed. He was identified as Luis Villegas of Oakland.

The driver of the Nissan and a passenger in the front seat were seriously injured and taken to hospitals. Authorities identified the driver as Francisco J. Enciso, 25, of Daly City, and the passenger as Yessica Milan, 27, of Whittier.

The fifth fatality was the driver of the pickup, John J. Blackburn, the CHP said.

The Suburban's driver, Victor Jarillo, was arrested for allegedly driving without a license, and his passenger was taken into custody on suspicion of providing false information to officers, according to Lutz.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.

-- Robert J. Lopez and Ruben Vives