A California Baptist University of Riverside cheerleading coach and two San Diego-area high school graduates were killed and more than a dozen others were injured in a three-vehicle crash on a highway south of Bishop, officials said today.
Three Ford vans carrying members of the Cal Baptist cross-country team were being driven northbound, in a line, one after the other, when the crash occurred on Highway 395 five miles south of Bishop at 8:24 p.m. Monday, California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Cleland said.
A 2004 Ford Expedition was being driven southbound, carrying several graduates of a Carmel Valley high school, when it veered onto the center diver and into northbound lanes, where it struck one of the Cal Baptist vans and burst into flames, according to Cleland and the high school’s website.
Cathedral Catholic High School graduates Natalie Nield and Amanda Post died in the crash, while Derek Thomas, 19, suffered severe burns over most of his body, according to a letter posted online by school principal Mike Deely.
Two more occupants of the Expedition suffered third-degree burns, according to the CHP.
More than 200 students, teachers and alumni gathered at the high school’s chapel this morning, according to Deely.
The driver of the Cal Baptist van, 35-year-old Wendy Rice of Corona, also died. Rice was a Cal Baptist cheerleading coach, according to Mark Wyatt, the university’s vice president for marketing and communication.
Following the initial crash, the driver of a 2000 Subaru Legacy, a 19- year-old Ashland, Ore., woman, struck the burning SUV. She suffered third- degree burns and complained of pain in her left arm, according to the CHP.
A dozen people in the Cal Baptist van suffered minor to serious injuries, according to the CHP.
An Inyo County sheriff’s deputy who came upon the scene pulled a man from the burning SUV, but he was unable to go back to help a second occupant who was screaming for help because of the intensity of the flames, according to the CHP.
Another person “who had been on fire and ejected from the Ford SUV walked past” the deputy and died in the fast lane, Cleland said.
The Cal Baptist cross-country team was headed to Mammoth for pre-season high-altitude training, according to the Cal Baptist website.
Bishop is about 290 miles north of Los Angeles, in Inyo County.
Rice, a mother of two, was in her second season as a coach at the university and had volunteered to help drive the cross-country team to the training site, according to the school.
Rice previously coached at Glendora High School, Centennial High in Corona and Corona Del Mar High, according to her bio page on the Cal Baptist website. At Glendora High, she led cheerleading squads to seven straight national finals, according to her bio.