SILVERADO CANYON – An Irvine man was arrested Monday after an early-morning crash left a 16-year-old girl dead, officials said.
Antonio Escamilla, 19, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter, California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Kovaletz said. He was expected to be booked after his release from Western Medical Center Santa Ana, where he was taken after the crash with major injuries.
Escamilla was driving a Honda Civic with three passengers around 1:30 a.m. on Santiago Canyon Road near Silverado Canyon Road, Kovaletz said. The car was following another Honda toward Black Star Canyon, where the group of 16- to 21-year-olds planned to hang out, Kovaletz said.
Both cars were traveling about 70 mph on the winding road when the driver of the front car braked hard to avoid a deer running across the road, Kovaletz said. Escamilla also braked, swerving off the left side of the road, he said. His Honda flipped after hitting a tree, throwing Marie Elizabeth Johnson, 16, out of the car from the back seat, Kovaletz said.
Johnson, an Irvine resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. She had not been wearing a seat belt, Kovaletz said.
The front vehicle also went on to crash after it braked. In all, six people were taken to hospitals, most with minor or moderate injuries, Kovaletz said.
Johnson, known to friends as Lizzie, would have begun her junior year Tuesday at Irvine High School. Irvine Unified School District spokesman Ian Hanigan said counseling would be available for students.
“I can tell you that this is very heartbreaking for us, Irvine High School and our district,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with (her) family, friends and loved ones.”
Excessive speed also played a role in the deaths of five Irvine teens over Memorial Day weekend. Four of the teens attended Irvine High School. Alcohol was not found to be a factor in that crash.
By CLAUDIA KOERNER / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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