A speeding car, a sickening creak, a ball of fire. Before anyone had time to react, a multi-vehicle crash turned a busy intersection into one of the most gruesome scenes on the streets of Los Angeles in years, killing five, including a pregnant woman, and family members looking for answers.
On Friday, investigators arrested Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, a registered nurse, in connection with the Windsor Hills accident.
Linton was driving a dark-colored Mercedes-Benz traveling at 100 mph on La Brea Avenue when she ran a red light at the intersection with Slauson Avenue around 1:35 p.m. Thursday, hitting several vehicles , according to the California Highway Patrol.
The accident left the family of Asherey Ryan, 23, the pregnant woman who was killed, in disbelief.
Cotie Davis, Ryan’s younger sister, remembers talking with her brother that morning.
While leaving their South Los Angeles apartment for a doctor’s appointment, Ryan told 20-year-old Davis, who does hair, that she wanted to get her hair done.
“She also wanted braids, probably like that,” Davis said, running her hands over her long black and blonde tresses that peeked past her waist.
Ryan would ask for a different color each time, she said. She came back, sometimes with her hair blue, other times purple.
But Thursday morning was the last time Davis would see his sister alive.
Minutes after leaving the apartment, Ryan’s car was run over by Linton’s Mercedes. Ryan, who was 8.5 months pregnant, was in the car with her boyfriend and one-year-old son.
The fire accident left five people dead, along with Ryan’s unborn child, while onlookers and family struggled to figure out exactly what happened.
Davis and his family grew concerned when they hadn’t heard from Ryan for several hours.
Speaking to The Times from the doorway of the apartment where the sisters lived with their mother, Davis recalled her family’s desperate attempts to reach Ryan on Thursday.
Calls went straight to voicemail. Text messages on his iPhone were sending green, a sign that Ryan’s phone was dead.
It didn’t make sense, Davis said. Her sister always kept a charger in the car.
She thought of the worst, wondering if her sister was in the fatal crash, her phone smashed in the crash.
The heartbreaking confirmation came from a text message from a friend at the crash site. He took a picture of someone he thought was Ryan and sent it to Davis.
It didn’t show Ryan’s face, but the image was just enough for their mother to recognize his clothes, and for Davis to recognize his feet and his tattoo.
“When you spend that much time with someone, you’re going to get to know every part of them,” she said.
Davis and his family collapsed. Their cries caught the attention of their neighbor, Josephine Harris, who ran.
“Rey Rey is gone,” they told Harris.
Few details emerged the day after the crash.
Surveillance video shows a Mercedes-Benz speeding down La Brea as dozens of cars drive through Slauson. The Mercedes does not seem to slow down before running a red light and colliding with cars at the intersection. He then bursts into flames and rushes into a lamppost, where he comes to a standstill.
After the crash, a trail of fire burned to the ground and billowing smoke could be seen miles away.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but Officer Franco Pepi, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, told The Times on Thursday that investigators determined that the Mercedes was traveling “at high speed ‘ and ran a red light.
At least six vehicles were involved in the crash, Pepi said. Eight people were injured.
Authorities are checking Linton’s blood tests to determine if she was under the influence at the time of the accident, according to two law enforcement sources.
A family member declined to speak to a Times reporter on Friday.
Linton was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and prosecutors plan to press charges Monday, charging her with the death of the unborn child as well as five others.
CHP investigators believe his Mercedes was traveling 80 to 100mph as it approached the junction and ran through the red light, and evidence gathered so far shows no signs of braking, according to two law enforcement sources.
A specialist CHP accident investigation team extracts data from Mercedes computers which capture speed, braking and acceleration.
At least nine serious accidents have occurred along this stretch of La Brea Avenue between 2013 and 2021, according to CHP data. None were fatal.
The LA County Coroner’s Office has not released the names of those killed in the crash, except for Ryan.
Davis said Ryan and their other brother, Sha’seana Kerr, were born in Los Angeles and raised in Inglewood.
In recent years, the family moved to California City, where their grandmother lives, before returning to LA
As the older brother, Ryan, who went by Rey Rey, was the backbone of the family. His birthday would have been in September; Davis followed in November.
Still, Ryan pushed aside talk of his own celebration, telling Davis, “Hey, sister, I already know what I’m getting for your birthday.”
Ryan has always bragged about his sisters and their accomplishments, Davis said. She was beaming with pride when she found out that Davis had started studying for her college degree in criminal justice.
Ryan followed her younger sister and joined the program as well, but it was Davis’ graduation that she was looking forward to.
“I can’t imagine not having it at my graduation,” Davis said before bursting into tears.
Harris, the neighbor, also felt Ryan’s sudden absence. After Harris moved from Arkansas to Los Angeles two years ago, it was Ryan who immediately befriended her.
Their front doors were several feet apart, and the two often met in the hallway of the apartment, where they talked about their boyfriend’s drama, pregnancy struggles, and past heartaches.
Harris had lost his mother in 2019 and, before that, his brother in a house fire. In a recent conversation, Ryan knocked on Harris’ door, sniffled, and asked if she was cooking her famous fried chicken.
“I was like, ‘Honey, I got you – I fed the first baby, so I could feed the second,'” Harris said, referring to Ryan’s toddler and the baby still on the way.
“I wake up expecting her to come out the door,” she said.
But Harris hasn’t been able to eat or sleep since she heard the screams from next door and learned that her friend had died.
“When I walk through the door, that’s the first thing I see: Rey Rey,” she said. “And it’s not there anymore.
Times editor Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.