A stolen big rig, driven by a teenager who believed zombies were chasing him, caused a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 15 in Temecula, injuring several on the evening of Saturday, April 6th. The semi truck was stolen from the Rainbow Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility just before the pileup. The crashes occurred around 6 p.m. and closed Interstate 15 for several hours.
Jeremiah Hartline, a 19 year-old from Tennessee, was arrested in connection with the crashes. Hartline informed authorities that he believed zombies were chasing him. It is alleged that Hartline stole an idling, unoccupied tractor trailer and sped off down the freeway.
A couple of miles down the road, the big rig sideswiped a Toyota Tacoma, causing that pickup truck to hit a Toyota 4Runner, which hit a Mercedes-Benz sedan. The Tacoma overturned and the other two vehicles hit the center divider. The driver of the Tacoma, Kyle Schlosser of San Jacinto and a passenger, Sarah Small of Hemet were both seriously injured and taken to the hospital. The driver of the 4Runner, Anne Lennala of Temecula, was transported to Inland Valley Medical Center with moderate injuries. The driver of the Mercedes-Benz, Timothy Varga of Temecula, sustained minor injuries.
After this series of crashes, Hartline continued driving the stolen big rig. After veering sharply left, Harline struck a Ford Taurus which collided with the center divider and a Honda Accord before the tractor trailer jackknifed, blocking all traffic. The driver of the Taurus, Kristine Thrower of Las Vegas and her passenger, Rosanna O’Gorman also of Las Vegas, were also transported to Inland Valley Medical Center with moderate injuries. The driver of the Accord, Dio Nomany of Lompoc, sustained minor injuries.
Hartline initially attempted to enter a white van in an attempt to flee the scene, but the driver of the van ejected Hartline from his vehicle. Hartline was taken to Rancho Springs Medical Center with minor injuries and was booked at Southwest Detention Center. He was being held in lieu of bail on charges of suspicion of taking a vehicle without consent and receiving known stolen property. Authorities are expected to add more charges.
The stolen big rig had a payload of strawberries, which covered the freeway after the truck jackknifed. The freeway was closed for several hours for investigation and cleanup.