A burning car after the collision in Solana Beach. Courtesy of OnScene.TV

Updated at 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20

Three people were killed in a fiery head-on crash involving a wrong-way driver on Interstate 5 early Sunday, closing the freeway for several hours, the California Highway Patrol said.

The collision occurred at 3:24 a.m. between Santa Fe Drive and Manchester Avenue when a 29-year-old man driving a northbound Mercedes-Benz up to 100 miles per hour slammed into a southbound Chrysler sedan carrying a man and a woman, killing all three on impact, CHP spokesman Jim Bettencourt said.

The force of the collision set the Chrysler ablaze, charring the remains of the still-unidentified occupants, Bettencourt said. Earlier reports listed four deaths, but authorities later confirmed three.

The deadly scenario began about 3 a.m. in San Ysidro, when the Mercedes driver — said to be an Oceanside resident — made a sudden U-turn on I-5 at the Mexican border and started hurtling north on the southbound lanes, authorities said.

The Mercedes sped about 40 miles to just south of Manchester Avenue in Solana Beach, where the crash occurred, Bettencourt said.

CHP officers spotted the wrong-way car barreling north at H Street in Chula Vista, with Border Patrol agents following behind on the northbound side of the freeway, the CHP said.

At E Street, the CHP and border patrol lost sight of the Mercedes, which apparently went north past National City, downtown San Diego, Mission Bay, La Jolla and Del Mar before the fatal crash, authorities said

The southbound 5 was snarled until 10:05 a.m, as all traffic was detoured at Manchester. Traffic on the old Coast Highway was jammed for miles.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.