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Street racers to blame for deadly chain-reaction crash, police say

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - A chain-reaction crash that claimed the lives of three people may have been caused by a street race, authorities say.

Around 12 a.m. on Saturday, police say eight vehicles collided on the 5 Freeway.

The California Highway Patrol told KTLA that witnesses say a Dodge Charger and a Dodge Challenger speeding in the southbound lanes of the freeway shortly before the crash.

“As they were street racing, the Dodge Challenger – which was in the No. 2 lane -- observed a slow-moving vehicle directly in front of him," Officer Doris Peniche said in an interview at the scene shortly after 6 a.m. "He attempted to avoid the slower-moving vehicle by changing lanes to the right, and at the same time that slower-moving vehicle changed lanes to the right.”

At that point, the suspected street racer hit the brakes and lost control of his car, slamming into an 18-wheeler. The semi-truck then crashed through the center divider, Peniche told KTLA.

The semi-truck became airborne and hit a gray Nissan Sentra, shearing the top off of the car. The truck finally came to rest on top of a Ford Explorer, where it was engulfed in flames.

The truck driver was able to get out of the big rig, but eventually died from his injuries.

“He was on fire, he went over the center divider to the other side, taking his clothes off," Javier Gonzalez, a witness, said.

Two of the occupants in the Sentra were also killed.

Authorities say 35-year-old Dealio Lockhart was arrested for the alleged street race. He will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges.