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Riverside cheerleading coach among 3 killed in crash near Bishop

August 10, 2010 |  8:55 am

WENDY At least three people, including two college-aged women and a cheerleading coach, were killed in a fiery collision near Bishop that appears to have involved two cross-country teams traveling in opposite directions.

Four people were hospitalized in critical condition and 12 others suffered minor to serious injuries after a Ford sport-utility vehicle traveling south on U.S. Highway 395 lost control and smashed into a white van, bursting into flames, said California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Cleland.

Officials initially said six people had died before revising the death toll.

The crash killed 35-year-old Wendy Rice of Corona, who was driving one of three vans carrying cross-country team members from California Baptist University in Riverside to a high-altitude training camp in Mammoth.

Two college-aged women in the SUV also died. They have not been identified.

Four other people in the SUV were critically injured and flown to hospitals in Inyo County, West Hills and Reno, Nev. One of them was so unstable that he or she could not be flown from the area.

Authorities believe the SUV was carrying student athletes from a San Diego-area cross-country team because they found running gear in the wreckage.

Twelve student athletes from Riverside were injured to varying degrees, said Mark A. Wyatt, a spokesman for the university.

Rice, a mother of two, worked as a coach and choreographer at Corona del Mar High School and Centennial High School in Corona before joining California Baptist University three years ago, according to her biography.

"We have lost a beloved member of our CBU family," University President Dr. Ronald L. Ellis said in a statement posted on the university website. "On behalf of the university community, I want to express our deepest sympathy to Wendy's husband and their two young children. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones in this terrible accident and with those who were injured."

The crash took place on a flat, straight four-lane highway with a center divider, where the speed limit is 65 mph, Cleland said. Crash investigators are measuring skid marks to determine how fast each vehicle was traveling.

University officials have contacted the families of all of the cross-country team members to notify them about the accident and are planning a memorial for Rice.

-- Tony Barboza

Top photo: California Baptist University volleyball team huddles in prayer for the school's cheerleading coach Wendy Rice, who was killed a crash. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Wendy Rice. Credit: Kenton Jacobsen / California Baptist University