TWENTYNINE PALMS — A three-vehicle crash claimed the lives of two male victims Sunday night, Oct. 20, on Twentynine Palms Highway near Peterson Road.
Deputies were called to the scene around 7:11 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department. They found that the driver of a Toyota traveling east on the highway crossed into oncoming traffic and ran head-on into an Audi going west.
A male passenger in the Toyota was thrown from the vehicle and died. A male passenger in the Audi was also pronounced dead at the scene.
Right after the crash, a Dodge traveling west ran into debris from the collision and ran off the road.
The Morongo Basin Ambulance Association reported it sent four ambulances to the collision. Arriving medical crews found two victims had died and three other people were suffering from critical injuries. MBA requested two helicopters, which landed at Hi-Desert Medical Center and flew two of the critically injured people to regional trauma centers. The third was taken by a ground ambulance.
Two other people who suffered less serious injuries were taken to local hospitals.
Law enforcement has not yet identified any of the people involved in the crash.
A huge section of the highway, from Sunfair Drive in Joshua Tree to Lear Avenue in Twentynine Palms, remained closed in both directions until noon Monday as investigators continued to work on the scene.
The Sheriff’s Department advised drivers to take alternate routes, especially through the national park. The park route reportedly was opened for free for people using the detour.
Other drivers took unpaved back ways and several people reported getting stuck in the soft sand.
At Lear Avenue, Citizen Patrol volunteers spent Sunday night sending westbound traffic north on Lear to Winters Road, but in the morning they got word that overuse of the road had made it impassible. Westbound drivers were forced to go back to Utah Trail and then travel through Joshua Tree National Park to get to the west side of the Basin.
Copper Mountain College was closed until 10 a.m. Monday as staff waited for the highway to be reopened.