Driver in fatal wrong-way crash in Newport Beach may have entered freeway intentionally, authorities say


A 23-year-old man under investigation for his involvement in a violent, head-on crash that killed a Newport Beach woman remains in a medically induced coma, authorities said Friday.

Authorities also are investigating whether the driver — identified as Luke Fitch of Newport Beach — intentionally sped onto the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach going the wrong way, according to the California Highway Patrol.

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


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.

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 Fitch 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.

Fitch was removed from the vehicle after the collision and was taken to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he remains in critical condition as of Friday morning.

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

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Daily Pilot staff writer Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.