HEMET: DUI suspected in fiery, two-car wreck

Timothy Franzese of Public Safety Incidents contributed to this report.


HEMET — Reports of a fiery wreck in Hemet brought emergency first responders from multiple agencies rushing to the scene Saturday, June 3. The crash, which caused one vehicle to burst into flames, happened at the intersection of Domenigoni and Searl Parkways in Hemet. The accident happened at the entrance to the Western Science Museum and Diamond Valley Lake.

(See videos from the scene at the bottom of this report.)

A Ford Focus that reportedly caused the collision burns unattended until fire officials began arriving. Selena Cathers photo

Reports of the fiery wreck began pouring in to both city and county emergency dispatchers at 7:40 p.m.

Multiple callers reported that two vehicles had collided head-on and that one of the two cars burst into flames. Other callers reported as many as four vehicles were involved in the collision. Several callers told emergency dispatchers that one or more victims were possibly trapped inside the wreckage of the burning car.

Officials later determined the accident involved only two vehicles and that the cars had not crashed head-on. The vehicles were described as a black Ford Focus and a silver Toyota.

City of Hemet Police and Fire personnel, Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighters, California Highway Patrol officers, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies and American Medical Response medics were all dispatched to the scene of the crash.

A City of Hemet police officer was the first to arrive at the scene of the blaze, arriving less than two minutes after the call was dispatched.

Vehicle parts and debris were strewn across the intersection and roadway, blocking several lanes of traffic on the busy roadway.

The officer confirmed one vehicle was fully engulfed in flames and he immediately began to gather information about the crash and try to determine if anyone was trapped inside the burning car.

The officer quickly determined that only two vehicles had been involved in the rear-end collision and the occupant(s) from the burning vehicle had managed to safely get out of the burning car before officials began arriving.

A Hemet police officer was the first to arrive at the crash, just 2 minutes after the fiery wreck was reported. Selena Cathers photo

It was not known if the occupants from the car that burst into flames self-extricated from the wrecked and burning car or if they were assisted by any of the countless motorists and witnesses who saw and reported the collision and pulled over to help the victims.

Other fire and law enforcement officials began arriving moments later and firefighters began an aggressive attack on the blaze, which by then had fully engulfed the car. Thick, black smoke from the burning Ford could be seen for miles.

Firefighters began evaluating and treating multiple victims at the location of the crash and an on-scene battalion chief requested a paramedic squad and multiple ambulances respond to the location for potential victims.

Firefighters used a mixture of foam and water to knock down the vehicle fire and had the blaze extinguished in less than ten minutes.

While firefighter/paramedics and AMR medics treated the injured victims and worked to extinguish the vehicle fire, officers began investigating the cause of the collision.

Witnesses to the crash told investigating officers that the silver Toyota was stopped at a red light in the west bound lanes at the intersection of Domenigoni and Searl Parkways.

A Toyota was destroyed by the high-speed impact that caused the other car to burst into flames. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

According to witnesses, the black Ford was traveling at highway speed when the driver failed to slow down or stop for the red light and smashed at full-speed into the back-end of the stopped Toyota.

The Ford reportedly burst into flames upon impact with the other car.

To ensure the safety of emergency first responders, while officials worked to extinguish the blaze, treat those injured in the collision and investigate the cause of the crash, Hemet police officers called for the temporary closure of all westbound traffic.

In spite of the tremendous impact and fire, there were no major injuries and those who were involved in the wreck were treated at the scene and reportedly declined further medical treatment.

As officers investigated the cause of the crash, they requested a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Device be brought to the location to determine if alcohol intoxication was a contributing factor in the collision.

At the conclusion of their investigation, officers reportedly transported the driver who caused the wreck to the Hemet Police Station for further evaluation and requested a nurse to the station to draw blood to determine the driver’s level of intoxication.

It was not known if the subject was determined to be under the influence or if the person was arrested.

Both destroyed vehicles were later towed from the scene and officials reopened the roadway at the conclusion of their initial investigation, which is still active and ongoing.

The vehicle that caused the wreck was destroyed by an intense fire that erupted after the collision. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

John Strangis video

Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents video

For more public safety related stories, photos, videos and information, visit Public Safety Incidents.



Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.