Five Coachella Valley residents were killed in a major wreck near Salton Sea Beach over the weekend.
The California Highway Patrol says a van and a truck collided at the intersection of Highway-86 and Brawley Avenue near Salton Sea Beach at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
On Monday morning, the Imperial County Coroner’s Office identified the five women who were killed in the crash.
Deanna Anderson, 76, of Palm Springs
Johnnie Alford, 84, of Cathedral City
Doris Baileygill, 78, of Palm Desert
Mona Mertens, 87, of Cathedral City
Nancy Sliger, 80, of Palm Springs
The van’s driver, Deanna Anderson, had stopped for a stop sign, but then drove out in front of the oncoming pickup truck, according to the CHP.
A fifth passenger also suffered major injuries and was air-lifted to Desert Regional Medical Center. Officials haven’t released that person’s name.
Annemarie Ruitenbach, lived next door to Deanna Anderson for years at the Safari Mobile Home Park in Palm Springs.
The neighbor says the 76-year-old and 80-year-old Nancy Sliger were sisters. She says ‘Dee’ – as they called her – and Nancy were on their way to a luncheon with the 4 other women, when the accident happened.
Now friends and family are left to cope with their sudden deaths.
“They just can’t believe it, it’s just so shocking. You know, it’s just so hard to grip that all 5 of them,” Ruitenbach said, who described Anderson as a very outgoing, friendly, and bubbly person.
“Dee was the type that she always organized the parties here,” Ruitenbach said, “She was organizing this Saturday party, we have a turkey dinner party. She was saying just before she left, both Nancy and Dee that they had to get the turkeys to get ready,” Ruitenbach added.
She says she still can’t believe the Dee and her sister, who also lived in the community,died. In fact, she says she saw the two women before they left Saturday morning.
“Very distraught and very upset. You know, it’s been very hard for all of us in the park because we’re all a close knit family here,” Ruitenbach said.
Other neighbors say their hearts go out to the victims families and say the sisters will truly be missed.
“We said a little prayer to make them fly like angles,” Ruitenbach said.
Family and friends will be holding a memorial for the women and are working on organizing it.
News Channel 3 learned two of the other victims, Johnnie Alford and Doris Bailey Gill, belonged to the Red Hat Society.
Four people in the Ford F-150 truck suffered minor to major injuries, and were taken to Pioneers Medical Hospital in Brawley for treatment.