A preliminary investigation into a head-on crash that on Saturday killed one person, injured three others and forced the closure of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu suggests that a blown tire may have started the deadly chain of events, officials said.
The 19-year-old driver of a red Ford Explorer told investigators he lost control of the sport-utility vehicle after his right rear tire blew out, according to Det. Richard Curry with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The SUV crossed over into oncoming traffic where it crashed head on into a black Toyota 4Runner, which then spun out and collided with a Lexus.
Sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Arnold said the dead person was a juvenile who had been a passenger in the Ford Explorer. Investigators said the victim and driver had been partying in the area the night before. It was not immediately known whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, but investigators said they are looking into the possibility.
The crash was at 8:10 a.m. Saturday in an S-curve just east of the Los Angeles County fire battalion headquarters at Carbon Canyon Road. The vehicles came to rest at the western-most intersection of PCH and Rambla Pacifica, which intersects PCH twice (pictured below).
PCH was reopened around 4 p.m. Saturday, several hours after the crash, according to California Highway Patrol officials. The area was cordoned off for the death investigation and to clear wreckage from the road.
There are no other roads along that section of the Malibu coast, which caused massive traffic snarls.
Resident Karen Horner said she was driving back to her home along PCH when she hit the traffic.
Authorities, Horner said, told her to park her car and walk home.
A SigAlert for the area was declared, but has since been lifted.
During the noon hour, PCH was closed to westbound through traffic at Topanga Canyon Boulevard, although westbound local traffic was allowed as far west as Las Flores Canyon Road.
Earlier in the day, both eastbound and westbound traffic had a firm closure -- no vehicles allowed -- between Las Flores Canyon and Carbon Canyon roads.
City News Service contributed to this report.