By Martin Henderson
Speed and moisture on a rain-slickened road apparently played a role in the single-car accident Saturday that injured five teenage girls, authorities said.
Meanwhile, two of the victims remain in critical condition. Lt. Jeff Passaquala of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said there was fear one of the girls, in particular, might succumb to her injuries, but at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, "she was still hanging in there."
None of the occupants of the 2006 Mercedes Benz C230 were older than 19. Initially, it was reported the youngest passenger was 16, although there is one report that one of the girls was 15.
In addition to the two critically injured girls taken to Mission Hospital, including the 19-year-old driver, two suffered moderate trauma injuries and were taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. The fifth girl, with mild injuries, was taken to Saddleback Memorial Hospital in Laguna Hills.
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The sedan crashed into trees near the entrance to the Cortesia Apartments on Melinda Road at Paseo Alegria. Authorities said the speeding vehicle was southbound on Melinda—headed in the direction of Santa Margarita Parkway—when it approached the right-handed bend in the road.
Driving on the rain-slickened asphalt, the car didn't negotiate the bend. It instead went straight and crossed two oncoming lanes of traffic, went over the sidewalk and up an embankment, crashing through a small tree before coming to a stop after hitting a bigger tree, authorities said.
The car barely missed a concrete monument sign at the Cortesia Apartments entrance, slicing between the sign and an electrical box.
The speed limit on that stretch of road is 45 mph.
The accident occurred Saturday, 10:53 p.m. The road was closed until about 7 a.m on Sunday for the OCSD's Major Accident Investigation team, and for the area to be cleaned of debris.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said the wreckage was "horrific," and that two of the victims required extrication by firefighters.
"This is a reminder to slow down," said Concialdi, who worked the crash in San Clemente less than 24 hours earlier in which four people suffered fatal injuries in a single-car crash, and also made note of the death a week earlier of two men, one of them actor Paul Walker, in a single-car accident. In both those cases, speed is believed to have been a contributing factor.—City News Service contributed to this story.