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California

Mercedes driver in fatal wrong-way crash may have entered freeway intentionally, police say

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The driver of a white BMW was killed in a head-on crash with the wrong-way driver of a Mercedes on the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach on Wednesday morning.
(OnScene.TV)

Authorities are investigating whether a 23-year-old man involved in a violent head-on crash that killed another driver had intentionally sped onto the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach going the wrong way, California Highway Patrol officials said Thursday.

Witnesses called authorities shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday to report a silver Mercedes that was driving erratically on city streets, said Officer John DeMatteo, a CHP spokesman.

The car entered the freeway near Birch Street and sped south in the northbound lanes at more than 100 mph before it crashed into a white BMW, DeMatteo said.

“Based on the way he drove onto the freeway, we have to treat it as if it looks like an intentional act,” said CHP Sgt. Todd Kovaletz.

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Arda Gulesserian, 64, of Corona del Mar, who was behind the wheel of the BMW, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Orange County coroner.

The woman’s nephew identified her to KTLA as Arda Melikyan and told the station she ran a company called VW Thing Parts & Restoration Specialists with her husband in Garden Grove. The couple restored old Volkswagens, he said.

Investigators are still looking into whether the driver — identified as Luke Fitch of Newport Beach — was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Authorities are waiting on the results of a toxicology test, DeMatteo said.

No one has been arrested in connection to the crash.

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Fitch was removed from the vehicle after the collision and was taken to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana in serious condition. Authorities have not been able to get a statement from him about the crash, DeMatteo said.

“The investigation is ongoing and it appears that it’s going to be a lengthy one,” he said.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @Hannahnfry


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