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CHP Looking For Cause Of Palomar College Students’ Triple-Fatal Crash

Photo caption:

Photo credit: 10News

Emergency responders at the scene of a triple-fatal crash on State Route 78 in Oceanside on Aug. 21, 2014.

Authorities sought Friday to determine the cause of a North County freeway crash that killed three young adults and injured five others, all of them Japanese citizens attending Palomar College as part of an international-studies program.

The accident occurred shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, when an eastbound 2000 Honda Prelude with eight people inside veered off state Route 78 in Oceanside for unknown reasons, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The sedan careened down an embankment near College Boulevard and struck a San Diego Gas & Electric power pole, CHP public-affairs Officer Jim Bettencourt said. The force of the impact split the vehicle apart and left power lines dangling.

All the occupants of the destroyed car wound up trapped in the wreckage, said Bill Kogerman, a battalion chief with the Oceanside Fire Department. It took emergency crews more than an hour to free them, Kogerman said.

The driver, a 19-year-old man, died at the scene, as did a male and a female passenger, Bettencourt said. The victims' names were withheld pending family notification.

Medics took the survivors, two women and three men, to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.

The eight victims ranged in age from 18 to 22, the CHP reported. All of them had just started classes at Palomar College this week as part of a program that offers education to students from abroad, school spokeswoman Laura Gropen said.

Robert Deegan, superintendent of the college, extended "heartfelt condolences" to the victims' families and friends.

"We are offering counseling services to our students, faculty and staff who may be affected by this tragedy," Deegan said.

The cause of the accident was under investigation, Bettencourt said.

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