A California Highway Patrol cruiser. Courtesy CHP

A San Diego family is in mourning Wednesday, grieving the loss of a couple in their 80s killed in a fiery Christmas night collision in Oceanside, where an Escondido man was also killed.

That couple was identified Tuesday by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office as Jose Delos Reyes Cortez and Ruth G. Cortez.

“They were coming home from a family Christmas gathering in Glendale” in Los Angeles County, wrote son Allan Cortez on Facebook. “Though this is a great loss for my family and the sadness is at times unbearable, we find comfort that they were together and had one last (Christmas) with their family.”

Police said the Escondido man was driving a 1996 Nissan sedan southbound on Interstate 5 about 5:20 p.m. Monday when he began to exit onto state Route 76. But he suddenly changed course on the exit ramp, swerving back toward the freeway and slamming into a barrier.

Reports from the California Highway Patrol and the medical examiner’s office differ slightly regarding what happened next, but at some point the older Nissan maneuvered back onto the freeway and was struck by a 2016 Nissan in which Jose and Ruth Cortez were passengers.

The 65-year-old San Diego woman driving that car sustained moderate injuries, CHP Officer Mark Latulippe said. On Facebook, Allan Cortez identified her as his aunt, Cherry Nunez, and said she was in stable condition as of Tuesday morning.

The collision sparked a fire that engulfed the older Nissan. Though his name has not yet been released pending family notification, the medical examiner’s office said the Escondido man driving that car died of blunt force injuries and burns.

Jose and Ruth Cortez were pronounced dead at the scene without lifesaving efforts or medical intervention “due to the obvious fatal trauma,” according to the medical examiner’s office.

—City News Service

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