A man intentionally rammed a Toyota Prius in Temescal Valley, causing the vehicle to slam into a tree and killing three teenage boys who were inside, the California Highway Patrol said Monday.
Three other teen boys who were also in the Prius were hospitalized after authorities responded to the crash on Temescal Canyon Road near Trilogy Parkway — close to the 15 Freeway between Corona and Lake Elsinore — just after 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Officers arrived to find a 2002 Toyota Prius that had plowed into a tree, CHP Lt. David Yokley said at a news conference.
The vehicle had six occupants: an 18-year-old man behind the wheel and five male minors. After the crash, three of them were trapped inside while the rest were outside the vehicle, officials said.
One person was pronounced dead at the scene, CHP Officer Juan Quintero said. The driver and the four other occupants were taken to local hospitals, where two of them died, Quintero added.
Those who survived had injuries that were not life threatening, Yokley later told reporters. Authorities have not released the victims’ names.
But Wanda Teifel, who was setting up a memorial Monday evening at the tree where the boys crashed, said 16-year-old Drake Ruiz was among the three killed.
“He loved God. He loved his family and his brothers,” Teifel told KTLA. “He’d always come give me a hug.”
Ruiz played football at Centennial High School in Corona and attended New Beginnings Community Church in Norco, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise money for his funeral.
The other two boys killed in the crash were identified by loved ones as Daniel Hawkins and Jacob Ivascu, both 16.
Following the collision, witnesses followed the second driver to a nearby home and reported him to authorities, according to CHP. The man, later identified as 42-year-old Anurag Chandra of Corona, was driving an Infiniti Q50. (Earlier, a witness told authorities the vehicle was possibly a Q45.)
Officials arrested Chandra without incident at the home at around 2:45 a.m., Yokley told reporters.
Video from the scene shows officers taking him into custody on Mojeska Summit Road, about a half-mile from the scene of the crash. A white Infiniti with substantial front-end damage was seen nearby.
Yokley said officials have not determined a motive, only saying that there was “some sort of contact which led to this incident.”
Chandra has been booked into jail on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, according to CHP.
Ruiz’s mother, Debbie Ruiz, said the boys were together celebrating one of their birthdays and had played a prank in which they rang a doorbell and drove away at a home they believed was that of another teen. “But it turned out to be that angry man,” Ruiz said.
Chandra chased after them and rammed their car, leading to the deadly crash, officials said.
About 1,000 people crowded into Northpoint Church in Corona, where the victims attended, for a vigil to the boys.
Debbie Ruiz said she wanted to thank a woman who stayed with the dying boys and prayed with them, as well as a man who followed the suspect and reported his location to police.
The case remains under investigation. CHP asked anyone with further information to call the agency at 951-637-8000.