Three people were killed, including a 26-year-old Huntington Beach man, after a wrong-way driver caused a spectacular head-on crash early Saturday morning involving two other cars on the southbound San Diego Freeway in Torrance, the California Highway Patrol said.
One car burst into flames after impact about 2:15 a.m. in the southbound car-pool lane north of Crenshaw Boulevard, according to the CHP.
Two men were pronounced dead at the scene. A third victim was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he died a short time later, said authorities.
Two victims who were in a car that was struck by the wrong-way driver were identified as Gerald Reckinger of Huntington Beach and Scott A. Barretta, 20, of Wildomar, a community near Lake Elsinore.
Reckinger, who was known as "JR" to friends, was a popular manager of Gables, a hair salon in Newport Beach, said his roommate, Toni Paduana, 27.
Paduana said Reckinger and Barretta were coming back from visiting with friends in Los Angeles at the time of the crash.
"I saw him right before he left. He has been my roommate and my best friend for years. He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it," Paduana said.
She said she was notified of his death early Saturday morning by Huntington Beach police.
Reckinger was originally from Pontiac, Mich., where his parents still reside. He had been close to the Paduana family in Huntington Beach ever since he moved to Southern California nine years ago, they said.
"He was like a brother to us," said Paduana's brother, Anthony, 25.
The wrong-way driver, who was not identified, was traveling at an estimated 70 m.p.h.