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Speeding teen faulted in fiery crash that killed four near Bishop

October 19, 2011 |  8:53 am

Fiery crash near Bishop

A speeding teenage driver caused a fatal collision last year that killed a former Corona del Mar High School cheerleading coach along with three others, according to a recently released California Highway Patrol investigation report.

Wendy Rice perished in the fiery Aug. 8, 2010, crash outside Bishop when her van was hit by a driver who lost control of an SUV, the Daily Pilot reported.

Rice, 35, was the cheerleading director, coach and choreographer at Corona del Mar High from 2001 to 2008.

Natalie Nield, 17, of Carlsbad was driving at least 85 miles per hour when she swerved toward the southbound shoulder of U.S. Highway 395 to avoid a big rig passing another truck, according to CHP Officer Dennis Cleland.

The report states that Nield's Ford Expedition then spun out of control, crossed the southbound lanes, flipped over and caught fire when it hit the center divider. It rolled into the northbound lanes and struck Rice's Ford E350 van. A Subaru Legacy later ran into the wreckage.

Cleland said Nield may have been distracted, and that she failed to gauge how slowly the trucks were moving.

"She didn't realize she was coming up on the big rigs in time," Cleland said.

Both Nield's and Rice's vehicles were carrying groups of young runners between Southern California and a high-altitude training camp in Mammoth. Rice was driving a van with 12 cross-country runners from California Baptist University in Riverside, where she coached cheerleading.

In total, 15 people were injured and four died. Nield and two of her passengers died from injuries sustained during the crash. The recovery of one severely burned survivor, Derek Thomas, was documented in a story in the Times.

That section of the 395 in the Owens Valley, about five miles south of Bishop, is relatively straight and flat, Cleland said.

While conditions were clear that night, the steep mountains to the west had begun to cast shadows.

Cleland said that Rice pressed on the brakes of her van, leaving skid marks.

"It all happened so quickly. I don't know there could have been anything done to avoid it," he said.


After fire, a young man's life restarts

Burn victims bid farewell to caregivers who saved his life

Cheerleading coach among dead in fiery crash near Bishop

— Mike Reicher, Times Community News

Photo: The scene of a fiery crash on  Highway 395 in Bishop. Credit: Mike Bodine / Inyo Register