Wrong-way-driver suspect in freeway crash still can’t talk, police say

A woman suspected of driving the wrong way on the 60 Freeway in Diamond Bar, causing a crash that killed six people, is “responsive with movement” at the hospital, but still unable to talk, authorities said Wednesday.

Olivia Carolee Culbreath, 21, has been arrested on suspicion of DUI causing great bodily injury and manslaughter after authorities say she slammed into another vehicle head-on.

Witnesses reported seeing Culbreath’s red Chevrolet Camaro traveling east on the westbound 60 Freeway at more than 100 mph early Sunday morning when it struck a Ford Explorer, which then collided with a third vehicle. Several people were ejected from the vehicles.


Culbreath and Joel Cortez, the driver of the third vehicle, survived. Four family members in the Explorer, who all died, have been identified as Gregorio Mejia-Martinez, 47; Leticia Ibarra, 42; Jessica Jasmine Mejia, 20; and Ester Delgado, 80. Culbreath’s passengers -- her sister, Maya, 24; and a friend, Kristin Melissa Young, 21 -- were also killed.

CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said Wednesday that investigators still had not received a statement about the collision from Culbreath, who remained hospitalized and unable to talk.

Custody of Culbreath has been transferred to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Jimenez said, but CHP investigators continue to ask witnesses to come forward.

Cortez, 57, has said he had settled into a lane on the freeway and had trailed a Ford Explorer for about 10 minutes early Sunday morning when he suddenly saw the Camaro flying through the air. He tried to swerve, he said.

Something slammed into the passenger side of his car, he said, and his air bag deployed. He said his vehicle struck the center divider, and he then looked out and saw something in the road. In the morning darkness, he said, it looked like a big bag.

Then he said he heard a scream: “There are bodies all over.”

A woman who answered the door at the Culbreath family home in Fontana on Monday choked up and said, “I’m just the grandmother, but I’ve more or less lost two babies.”

“I can’t answer anymore. I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes downcast as she closed the door.

But on her Facebook page, the grandmother, Carole Phillips, informed friends and family of the “horrible accident” and said Olivia, the suspected wrong-way driver, was a “new mother.”

She added that “we lost my beautiful granddaughter, Maya, and as I am telling you this, my other granddaughter, beautiful, and a new mother, Olivia, is having surgery. They are trying to fix her very broken body, our hearts are broken, and I just can’t stop crying for my granddaughters, and their sweet babies. Please pray for them and all of us that are left behind.”

Twitter: @MattStevensLAT