Melvin Branch Arrested on Fatal DUI Crash on 5 Freeway in Santa Ana
SANTA ANA, CA (December 31, 2018) – A woman and a child were killed following a suspected DUI crash early New Year’s Day in Santa Ana.
The fatal crash happened just before 1:00 a.m. on northbound 5 Freeway, just under 22 Freeway.
According to reports, a BMW sedan was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed when it rear-ended a Lexus car in the carpool lane. The impact sent the Lexus into a sound barrier wall along the right shoulder.
The BMW continued forward and slammed into a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck, driven by a 33-year-old Jolene Gardner of Hawthorne. Her 9-year-old daughter Payton Castillo was riding as a passenger, CHP officials said.
The Ford pickup truck overturned on its side and skidded across traffic lanes, still being pushed by the BMW, until both vehicles struck a guardrail and came to a stop.
A Mazda sedan struck the overturned pickup truck and crashed into the center divider during the chain-reaction crash.
Both Gardner and her child were killed in the crash. The young girl died at the scene, while the mother succumbed to her injuries after being transported to the hospital.
The drivers of the Lexus and the Mazda were unharmed.
The man driving the BMW sedan, identified as 30-year-old Melvin Cleveland Branch of Orange, only sustained minor injuries. He was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and gross vehicular manslaughter. Once placed in the back of a patrol car, he kicked out a rear window and jumped out before being recaptured, authorities said.
Branch’s bail was set at $100,000 pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court.
Authorities closed the 22 Freeway in both directions for nearly 10 hours as they investigated the scene and collected evidence scattered across both sides of the freeway.
A GoFUndMe account has been set up to pay for Gardner and Castillo’s funerals.
This is such a terrible news. We would like to offer our sincere thoughts and sympathies to the loved ones and friends of Jolene Gardner and Payton Castillo.
If you suddenly lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, contact us today at The Sweet Law Group. The lawyers in our firm are highly skilled and experienced in handling delicate cases such as wrongful death. We want to help you through this difficult time so you can focus on other matters at hand. Let us fight for justice and proper compensation your family deserve. Call us for a free consultation at (800) 203-3061.