By Debbi Baker, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Originally published July 6, 2010 at 10:47 a.m., updated July 6, 2010 at 11:20 a.m.
SAN DIEGO — Two active-duty service members suffered major injuries Monday afternoon and one had both legs amputated after a high-speed crash that may have involved racing.
The men were in a red Ford Mustang that was heading south on Interstate 5 about 2 p.m. when the driver abruptly changed lanes at the transition road to state Route 94, said California Highway Patrol officer Ken Jackman.
The car went into a skid and the driver’s side door slammed into a metal guard rail and the car overturned. Both men were ejected and the driver’s legs were both severed below the knee, Jackman said.
The crash demolished the car, bending it into a U-shape, its floorboard pushed up so high that it left the driver’s seat completely outside of the vehicle on top of the car’s undercarriage, Jackman said. The passenger was wearing a seat belt, but investigators do not know if the driver was belted in because the damage to the car was so severe, Jackman said.
Several people stopped and tried to help the victims, identified only as an 18-year-old from Tennessee who was driving and a 19-year-old from Texas.
One man applied a tourniquet to the man with the severed legs, Jackman said. The other victim suffered deep cuts to his face. Friends who gathered at Scripps Mercy Hospital, where the men were taken, told KGTV-Channel 10 that both are in the Navy. Jackman said he did not know where they were stationed.
Jackman said the investigation is still in the preliminary stages. Investigators are not prepared to say that racing was a factor, but at least one witness told officers that one and possibly two other vehicles were seen speeding in the area at the time, Jackman said.
Alcohol was not a factor, Jackman said.
The driver does not currently face charges, but that could change as the investigation progresses, Jackman said. Based on the skid marks and damage to the car, officers estimated it was traveling anywhere between 60 and 90 mph. If officers determined that others were involved in a race with the Mustang, they could also face charges, Jackman said.
The state Route 94 transition road as well as two lanes of I-5 were shut down for several hours as authorities investigated the crash and crews cleared away the wreckage.
The names of the injured men have not been released.