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COSTA MESA : 6 Injured in 2 Rush-Hour Car Crashes

Two traffic collisions, half a mile and 45 minutes apart, combined to leave six people injured and rush-hour traffic snarled Wednesday near South Coast Plaza.

The first crash occurred just before 4 p.m., on the northbound San Diego Freeway between Fairview Road and Harbor Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Six vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction collision in the car-pool and adjacent lane, the CHP said.

Three people were injured, including one person who was extricated from the vehicle with the help of a metal cutter, according to Costa Mesa Fire Department spokeswoman Susan Woods.

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The most seriously injured victim was taken by ambulance to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana. Two others were taken to other area hospitals, Woods said. Two lanes of the freeway were closed for 30 minutes to remove the vehicles, but by 6 p.m. northbound traffic was still backed up to University Drive in Irvine, the CHP said.

About 4:40 p.m., a second collision took place near the intersection of Bear Street and South Coast Drive, across from South Coast Plaza.

Three people also were injured in this crash, one seriously, according to the Costa Mesa Fire Department. That victim was taken to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.

Witnesses told police that a late-model Mercedes, traveling south on Bear Street, was turning on a green arrow into the shopping center.

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A white, 1992 Pontiac Sunbird, traveling north on Bear, “blatantly ran the red light and hit the Mercedes,” according to Officer George A. Rose.

No one was cited, but an investigation is continuing, he said.

Bear Street was closed and “we had to divert a lot of traffic,” Rose said.

Traffic around the shopping center was snarled for more than an hour, compounded by vehicles leaving the San Diego Freeway at Fairview Street to avoid traffic from the earlier accident.

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