Newport Beach wrong-way crash leaves innocent woman dead; injured man ID'd after Mercedes reaches 100 mph on freeway

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A 65-year-old woman was killed Wednesday morning in a five-car crash involving a wrong-way driver on the northbound 73 Freeway, authorities said.

According to a California Highway Patrol incident log, the head-on collision was reported shortly before 9 a.m. near Campus Drive. Witnesses told CHP investigators that the man behind the wheel of a silver Mercedes-Benz station wagon reached speeds of up to 100 mph while driving against traffic shortly before the violent pileup.

That motorist, who was critically injured in the incident, was later identified by authorities as 23-year-old Luke Fitch of Newport Beach. He was transported to OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.

A woman was pronounced dead at the scene after the white BMW sedan she was driving was hit head-on by the speeding Mercedes. She was later identified by family members as 65-year-old Arda Gulesserian.

The husband of the victim said he's in complete shock over the loss of his wife.

Investigators are looking into whether the crash was intentional.

"Based on the reports of him driving recklessly beforehand and the way he got on, that's why we are looking into it as a possible intentional act,'' CHP Sgt. Todd Kovaletz told ABC7. "So as far as intoxication goes, right now it's obviously something that's suspected, but until we can get there and interview him and talk to the hospital, it's too early to say one way or the other."

Neighbors of the suspected wrong-way driver described him as a "nice" young man.

Three northbound lanes were closed on the 73 as an investigation and cleanup operation were conducted at the scene. All lanes were expected to be open in the late afternoon.
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