The wrong-way driver who died after a collision on northbound Highway 101 around 1:00 a.m. Monday morning has been identified as Timothy Morhar. Trapped inside of his burning 2001 Infiniti I30 after hitting one vehicle and slamming into another, 44-year-old Morhar died at the scene. CHP officers believe Morhar entered the 101 in the wrong direction near Summerland, and the collision occurred just north of Santa Monica Road turnoff in Carpinteria. Blood tests are pending to determine if drugs or alcohol played a factor in the incident.
Morhar first hit a Nissan Altima, and continued traveling “out of control,” said CHP officials. The driver and the passenger — Rosie Bermudez and Manuel Partida, both 32-year-old Goleta residents — sustained minor injuries. Morhar then struck a Honda Odyssey and both cars went up in flames. Four occupants in the Odyssey were able to escape the burning vehicle, but driver Phucthanh Le, 47, sustained major injuries. His current condition is unclear. The other passengers, Thoi Phan, 36, and two children, who are five and 13 years old, were able to get out of car with minor injuries.
CHP spokesperson Jonathan Gutierrez said CHP protocol prohibits officers from following a driver in the wrong direction on the highway. Instead, officers are instructed to follow the wrong-way vehicle along the other side of the center divider in attempt to get the driver to pull over. CHP officers’ actions largely depend on the circumstances, Gutierrez said, but officers could potentially call units ahead for assitance or use a spike strip. “When you make policy, you can’t make it for every single situation there is,” Gutierrez said, adding that officers are always expected to “be cautious” and use their “best judgment.”