A Corona man is facing murder charges after officials say he intentionally rammed his car into another vehicle, killing three teens and injuring three others in a Riverside County crash, authorities said.
The California Highway Patrol’s Riverside station responded at 10:23 p.m. Sunday to a fatal crash on Temescal Canyon Road, north of Trilogy Parkway. A 2002 Toyota Prius carrying six teenagers went off the road and slammed into a tree, authorities said.
Jacob Ivascu, 16, of Riverside died at the scene. Drake Ruiz and Daniel Hawkins, both 16 and from Corona, died after being transported to a hospital, according to the Riverside County coroner. Firefighters freed three other teens trapped in the car, including the driver, all of whom were taken to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, according to a CHP news release.
Authorities initially thought the crash was a hit-and-run accident, but witness statements, evidence and further investigation led authorities to determine Anurag Chandra, 42, of Corona purposely drove his 2019 Infinity Q50 into the Prius, forcing it off the road.
Chandra allegedly fled the scene to his home, where he was followed by a witness who alerted authorities. The following morning, officials arrested Chandra without incident on Mojeska Summit Road, about half a mile from the crash site, according to a news release.
“It was an intentional act,” CHP Lt. David Yokley said at a news conference, although he did not disclose a motive. “Our investigation led us to believe Mr. Chandra intentionally rammed the Prius, causing the driver to lose control.
“The investigation has now changed from a hit-run collision to homicide,” he said.
Chandra was booked on suspicion of murder with malice and assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center with no bail and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, jail records show.
Debbie Ruiz, Drake’s mother, told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that the boys were on their way to a sleepover to celebrate one of their birthdays. The teens stopped along the way to play a “ding-dong-ditch” prank — ringing a doorbell and quickly driving away — at a home where they thought another teen lived, “but it turned out to be that angry man.”
After they rang the doorbell and left, the mother said, Chandra chased them.
“They even made a U-turn, tried to get away and [he] just rammed him I don’t know how many times. He tried to run them off the road,” she said.
CHP spokesman Juan Quintero said Wednesday the agency is aware of the prank and is investigating.
A GoFundMe profile created for Drake Ruiz described him as a “loving son, a kind brother and was loved by everyone who knew him. He was genuinely a great kid.” Drake was a Centennial High School football player and a member of New Beginnings Community Church in Norco, according to the website.
The profile, which was created to help collect money for his funeral, had raised $23,985 of its $25,000 goal as of Wednesday morning.
Anyone with information about the crash can call the CHP’s Accident Investigation Unit at (951) 637-8000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.