Man, 2 Children Killed in High-Speed Collision

Times Staff Writer

A speeding sports car driven by a suspected drunk driver plowed into another vehicle on the westbound Ronald Reagan Freeway early Wednesday, killing a man and two children in a fiery collision, authorities said.

The crash occurred shortly after 2 a.m. in Granada Hills when a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette traveling at more than 100 mph slammed into the back of a 1988 Honda Accord, causing it to flip over several times, California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang said.

The collision pushed the trunk of the Honda into the rear passenger compartment and caused the gas tank to explode into an intense fire.

The Honda's three occupants were so severely burned that they could not immediately be identified.

Coroner's investigators said the driver was a man, the front- seat passenger was a girl about 8 to 10 years old and the back-seat passenger was a boy about 5 years old.

"Nothing that was flammable was left," Tang said. "We're hoping they died from the impact. That would make it easier for everyone to digest."

The Corvette was driven by Tim Whelan, 35, of La Canada, a convicted felon, according to CHP officials. Whelan, who suffered cuts and scratches, was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder, Tang said. He is being held without bail at Men's Central Jail.Coroner's investigator Joyce Kato said the victims will be identified through dental X-rays. "It's going to take a couple of days," she said.

The driver of the Honda was traveling no more than 70 mph in the fast lane of the freeway when he apparently noticed the Corvette rapidly approaching from behind, Tang said.

"He attempted to change to the No. 2 lane, but the Corvette did the same thing, and there was a collision," he said. "At impact or shortly thereafter, something sparked, and the gasoline caught fire and the car lit up."

Firefighters got to the scene quickly, but were unable to help the people in the Honda, he said.

A passenger in the Corvette, Mike Whitaker, 35, of Tujunga also was injured. He was in serious but stable condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, Tang said. Whitaker will also be arrested on outstanding warrants, said Ann Davigo, a CHP spokeswoman.

While the CHP said Whelan is a convicted felon, his convictions could not be positively confirmed by the district attorney's office. District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons, however, said a person named Timothy Whelan with the same birthday and age was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to six years in prison for selling drugs. He was also arrested in July in San Fernando and charged with shooting into an uninhabited building, discharging a firearm with gross negligence and possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a pair of daggers.

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