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Fog Triggers Pileup After Fatal Crash : Safety: Chain reactions in separate incidents close Interstate 5 at Camp Pendleton for five hours and affect Interstate 805.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Northbound Interstate 5 south of Orange County was closed for nearly five hours early Saturday after a fatal crash as heavy fog and poor driving triggered a string of accidents involving more than 100 vehicles.

Cars collided in three separate incidents on I-5 starting about 6:50 a.m., said Scott Marotte, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher.

Another pileup occurred in the northbound lanes of Interstate 805 near La Jolla.

Officials said more than 30 people were hospitalized and many others suffered minor injuries.

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The holiday weekend traffic crawled to a halt and was backed up about eight miles after the first accident, which took place on the stretch of I-5 bordering Camp Pendleton Marine Base. Even after traffic lanes were cleared about noon, rubbernecking drivers kept vehicles inching along, officials said.

“It was just a mess, you couldn’t see anything because of the fog but you could hear accidents all around,” said California Highway Patrol spokesman Ted Prola. “Cars were just parked all over the place, people were wandering all over the freeway in a massive state of confusion.”

“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he added.

The first accident occurred seven miles north of Oceanside when a vehicle driven by Jeff Pranoto, 18, of Irvine, a student at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, spun out of control and overturned, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office.

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Law enforcement officials had difficulty finding Pranoto’s relatives Saturday and released his name in the hope that someone could help authorities find the family of the man, believed to be from Indonesia. Pranoto’s female passenger was ejected from the vehicle and was listed in serious condition at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.

Traffic began building up as officials tried to clear the crash scene, but worsening fog triggered numerous pileups even as law enforcement officers tried to escort vehicles through the area, Prola said. The fog limited visibility in some areas to 20 feet.

In one incident, at least 37 vehicles collided when one vehicle came to a sudden stop, causing a chain reaction, Prola said.

“It’s been quite a scene here today,” said Gloria Lee, a nursing supervisor at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, where 14 victims were taken for treatment for injuries ranging from moderate to critical.

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More than a dozen off-duty CHP officers were called into work and other agencies assisted. Orange County Fire Authority sent four units to the scene, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Freeway Crashes

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At least 100 cars piled up in the fog in a series of chain-reaction collisions on Interstate 5 near Oceanside and Interstate 805 near La Jolla. One person was killed and at least 30 people were injured, authorities said.


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