SANTA MONICA ( — A 20-year-old man was killed and three others were injured Friday morning when a wrong-way driver caused a series of collisions on Interstate 10 in Santa Monica.

The incidents, which were reported at 1:15 a.m. at Centinela Avenue, prompted the closure of all westbound lanes for more than five hours. All lanes were reopened just after 7 a.m.

Officials said the wrong-way driver struck another vehicle and as that vehicle’s occupants attempted to exit their car, which caught fire, their vehicle was struck by another car.

“While they’re trying to help each other, another car comes traveling the correct direction, impacts the car that was hit by the wrong-way driver,” said an official.

Phillip Ruiz Jr., who turned 20 on Friday, died at the scene.

The driver who struck the car and the wrong-way driver, whose vehicle went off the freeway into an embankment, were both arrested on suspicion of DUI.

The wrong-way driver, who was the sole occupant of his vehicle, was hospitalized in serious condition. Officials are investigating reports that his headlights may have been off.

The accident is the latest in a series of wrong-way crashes in recent weeks.

Just last weekend, a 77-year-old man was killed in wrong-way wreck as he and two others were headed home from a church retreat on the 14 Freeway.

Days before that, a huge multi-car pileup on the 14 Freeway was the result of a driver headed in the wrong direction.

“The freeways are designed for drivers who are unimpaired,” said Judy Gish of Caltrans.

She said they’ve tried to combat the problem with wrong-way signs at every freeway off-ramp.

“There are signs that are very large. The pavement markers turn red to indicate you’re going the wrong way,” said Gish.


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