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4 El Toro Marines Die in Tustin Car-Truck Crash

Times Staff Writer

Four Marines from the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station were killed Thursday when their car turned into the path of an oncoming truck in Tustin, authorities said.

Two of the men died on impact in the collision on Red Hill Avenue, and the other two were pronounced dead a short time later at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, investigators said. It took firemen about 20 minutes to cut off the car’s roof to free the victims.

An air station spokesman said the names of the four were being withheld pending notification of their families.

California Highway Patrol Officer Art McMahan said there was no indication of drug or alcohol use by the four victims or the driver of the CFS Continental truck, James Norman Estes of Tustin.

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Estes, who was traveling about 45 m.p.h., was questioned and released. “I’ve been instructed by my office not to talk about (the crash),” he said. “I’m having trouble just keeping hold of it right now.”

The four Marines wore camouflage uniforms and were all wearing seat belts when the crash occurred about noon. A CHP officer said the driver of the blue Chevrolet Sprint had apparently stopped at an intersection and then inexplicably turned onto Red Hill Avenue just as the truck approached.

The car was dragged 150 feet by the truck, investigators said. Estes told police the turn was so sudden he didn’t even see the car until he came to a stop after the crash.

Other CFS drivers who showed up shortly after the accident said Estes has worked for the firm since 1982 and has about 15 years of truck-driving experience. Pat Derrico said he knew of no previous accidents involving his co-worker. “In fact, he’s one of our best drivers,” he said.

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