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11 Killed In Fiery Crash On California’s Highway 1

Thu., Sept. 11, 1997

Eleven people - most of them returning to Los Angeles after a day of selling corn - were killed in the fiery head-on crash of a packed van and a pickup on a scenic California highway.

“I haven’t seen anything this horrendous,” California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Everly said Wednesday.

Tuesday night’s collision left wreckage burning for hours and victims and ears of corn strewn across Highway 1 between Lompoc and Santa Barbara, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The names of the dead, eight from a Chevrolet van carrying a dozen people and three from a Ford pickup truck, weren’t released. They were charred beyond recognition and the coroner’s office said identification wasn’t expected for days.

“No one is telling us who they were and we haven’t been able to find any identification,” said Sgt. Tom Nelson of the Santa Barbara County coroner’s office.

Four people survived, two in critical condition. A couple said they had been selling corn in Lompoc during the day and were heading home to the San Fernando Valley.

Survivors only spoke Spanish, and one said he had arrived in the United States from Mexico only eight days earlier.

According to the highway patrol, the pickup went over the double yellow line and hit the van. Witnesses said the pickup had been passing vehicles on the twisted highway.

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