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Airborne pickup in Riverside kills 1, wreaks havoc

October 15, 2009 – A dramatic roll-over freeway accident in Corona killed a pickup truck driver, injured a pedestrian and smashed about nine vehicles in a parking lot, according to the California Highway Patrol.

“This was a pickup-versus-semi,” CHP Officer Jaci Parent said of the initial collision during the 8:47 a.m. wreck along the eastbound lanes of Highway 91 at McKinley Street. “The guy in the pickup went off the freeway, through a fence and overturned … in the parking lot of a 24-hour fitness center.”

A Caltrans traffic camera showed nine damaged vehicles in the parking lot, she said. And during the chaos, a pedestrian was hit.

“The driver is the fatality,” Parent emphasized. “The pedestrian is injured.”

The name of the 33-year-old Riverside man who died had not been released yesterday afternoon. The cause of the crash is being investigated, said California Highway Patrol Officer Sylvia Mosley.

Witnesses said a red Chevrolet Silverado was speeding east on Highway 91 in a light rain around 8:45 a.m. just before the McKinley Avenue exit, Mosley said. The pickup went out of control, clipping the front left of a semi-truck driven by Manjeet Singh, 53, of Fresno, before crashing into a car driven by Thomas Loughman, 64, of Murrieta.

“It starts to overturn off of the freeway,” Mosley said, before it veered over the embankment and toward parked cars. “It strikes the white Suburban, launching (the pickup) into the air.”

Giovanni Disalvo-Greenler was sitting inside his car in the 24 Hour Fitness parking lot next to the Chevrolet Suburban, talking on his phone before heading into the gym. He saw a red ball angling toward him out of the corner of his eye.

“I turned. I see it hit the Suburban, and when I’m ducking, I see it over my windshield,” said Disalvo-Greenler, 39, a Houston resident in town on business. “I jumped out of the car — am I alive?”

Spencer Spiker, 21, of Corona, was standing behind his car when he heard the wreck. He ran, and then dove to the ground, Mosley said.

Once airborne, the pickup rolled across several other parked cars in the same row, sheared off a tree and then slammed into another car before landing upside down in an adjacent row. The back of the truck bed rested against the top of a sport utility vehicle about 200 feet from where it left the freeway.

Inside the gym, off-duty Riverside City Fire Department Capt. Jeff DeLaurie, 45, of Capistrano Beach, heard an announcement over the loudspeaker asking medical personnel to come to the front desk.

DeLaurie said he looked at the driver, who he said appeared dead, and then checked on Spiker, who had cuts and bruises.

“I got off light,” DeLaurie said, looking at his car parked near the pickup, its trunk smashed and bumper torn. Nine vehicles in the parking lot were seriously damaged.

Gym member Ioanna Kermeli, who watched tow trucks load wrecked cars onto flatbeds and saw tree branches and debris strewn about, said she doesn’t park in the row nearest the freeway.

“I was gonna park there yesterday and all of the sudden I thought, these cars are going awfully fast on the freeway. What if one goes off the freeway?” Kermeli said. “It’s awful. Now I know. I’ll never park there.”

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