By Martin Henderson
A 16-year-old girl injured in a single-vehicle crash on Saturday night was removed from life support, various sources said.
Although the Orange County Coroner had not yet been notified of her passing by the hospital as of 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning, Lt. Brian Schmutz—the chief of police services in Rancho Santa Margarita—said Wednesday night the girl had died, though there were few details available.
The victim had been on life support since the 2006 Mercedes Benz C230 in which she was a passenger went off southbound Melinda Road, up an embankment and crashed into two trees on Saturday night, about 10:53 p.m.
A vigil held Wednesday night at the crash site was attended by about 200 people. The victim's cousin told the Orange County Register she had been removed from life support on Wednesday; that was in line with other sources who were not family members.
Candles, stuffed animals and posters—one of them reading "Rest in Peace Kiana" with a photo and sentiments from friends—lined the embankment near the Cortesia Apartments.
The car's angled pathway up the embankment has been cleared of trees and shrubs leading to the scarred tree, upon which a pink "K" was nailed. Authorities have not yet provided the victim's name.
The victim was one of five occupants in the vehicle, all of whom were taken to hospitals after the accident. Her sister remains in critical condition at Mission Hospital. Seated in the back seat, apparently neither of the two most seriously injured victims were wearing seat belts and needed to be extricated from the vehicle by emergency personnel.
The five girls ranged in age from 15 to 19. Two in critical condition were taken to Mission Regional Trauma Center in Mission Viejo; two suffering moderate injuries were taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, and another with mild injuries was taken to Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills.
Speed and moisture on the rain-slicked road, were thought to have contributed to the Mercedes failing to negotiate a right-handed bend in the road at Paseo Alegria. Apparently out of control in the hands of the 19-year-old driver, the vehicle crossed two oncoming lanes of traffic, going over the sidewalk and up an embankment before crashing through one tree and coming to a stop after hitting a larger tree, authorities said. The car narrowly missed a concrete monument sign for the Cortesia Apartments. The investigation is ongoing.
The posted speed limit under ideal conditions is 45 mph.
The accident occurred Saturday, 10:53 p.m. The road was closed until about 7 a.m on Sunday for the Orange County Sheriff's Department's Major Accident Investigation team, and for the area to be cleaned of debris.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi called the wreckage "horrific."
"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.