A young mother died in one of three crashes involving at least nine cars on the 5 Freeway Thursday morning, as lanes were closed amid morning traffic and others, including children, were taken to the hospital.
A Nevada man, suspected of being under the influence, was traveling at more than 100 mph at 1:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes of the freeway near the Alton Parkway exit, the California Highway Patrol said.
The 22-year-old man, accused of being behind the wheel of a souped-up Dodge Challenger, crashed into a an Uber driver in a Prius. The driver was on the clock, but did not have any passengers traveling with him at the time.
As the wreckage from the Challenger blocked the middle lane, vehicles traveling in the darkness began swerving to avoid the debris.
Ten minutes after the first crash, a second wreck occurred, igniting a chain-reaction crash involving seven other vehicles.
The lead car in the second crash involved a 24-year-old Chula Vista resident who had her 6-month-old baby in the car with her, CHP said. She died as a result of injuries in the crash, CHP confirmed.
"What we believed happened from witnesses, is she undid her seat belt, she was reaching from the back to get her child and she was hit again," CHP Officer Florentino Olivera. "And that's what caused her to sustain those injuries."
Her 6-month-old baby boy traveling with her has been taken to a hospital, and was in critical condition.
"The baby was safe. He was belted in his car seat. Which we tell the public -- car seats save lives," Olivera said. "And everything was done right. He was in the car seat. And that's what saved his life."
Her identity would not be released until family, traveling from the San Diego area, could reunite with the child at the hospital. While her name was not released, family said she leaves behind two daughters as well, and was heading home to San Diego when the crash occurred.
A total of nine people were hurt in the crash, including 10- and 11-year-old children traveling in one of the cars.
CHP said calls were coming in to report the Challenger before the crashes began.
All lanes of the 5 Freeway were back open by the afternoon.