Newport Beach police said Tuesday that it appeared that only one vehicle was involved in a car crash that killed five people.
Firefighters and police responded to the scene just north of Jamboree Road and Island Lagoon Drive at 5:20 p.m. Monday and found a late-model Infiniti split in two, 100 feet from where it apparently smashed head-on into a tree.
The crash happened on a downhill stretch toward Pacific Coast Highway.
Newport fire Capt. Glenn White, who was on duty at the Balboa fire station, said that rescuers were dispatched at 5:23 p.m. after an initial report of a multiple-vehicle crash with the possibility of pedestrians being struck.
"When we arrived we found what we thought were two vehicles," he said. "One was on fire."
Upon closer inspection, they found it was just the one car — he said it looked like a sedan — that was split in half.
The late-model Infiniti veered off the road and into the center divider, where it struck a planted tree, police department spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said. Police are speaking with witnesses who saw the crash, she said.
Four people were ejected from the vehicle, and another passenger was partially ejected.
"I've been on duty for almost 30 years, and I've seen some terrible vehicular accidents," White said. "This was, if not the worst, one of the worst I've ever seen."
Police said it was too early to tell if alcohol was a factor in the crash.
The identities of the victims had not been released. An Orange County coroner's official said it was unclear when autopsies would be scheduled.
A 2009 crash on Newport Beach's Jamboree Road also split a vehicle in two when it crashed into a light pole, killing its driver.
A 10-car crash in 2011 along Newport Beach's Mariners Mile killed three people.