Family remembers young mother killed in fire accident in Windsor Hills

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A speeding car, a sickening crunch, a ball of fire. Before anyone had time to react, a multi-vehicle crash turned a busy intersection into one of the most gruesome scenes on Los Angeles streets in recent years, leaving five people dead, including a pregnant woman, and family members searching answers

Investigators arrested Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, a registered nurse, on Friday in connection with the crash in Windsor Hills.

Linton was behind the wheel of a dark-colored Mercedes-Benz going 100 mph on La Brea Avenue when she ran a red light at the intersection with Slauson Avenue at about 1:35 p.m. Thursday, and hit several vehicles, he said. the California Highway Patrol.

The accident has left the family of Asherey Ryan, the 23-year-old pregnant woman who died, in disbelief.

The California Highway Patrol and other officials are investigating the crash scene.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Cotie Davis, Ryan’s younger sister, recalled talking to her brother that morning.

Leaving her South Los Angeles apartment for a doctor’s appointment, Ryan told Davis, 20, who combs her hair, that she wanted to do her hair.

“She wanted braids, too, probably like this,” Davis said, running her hands through her long, waist-length black and blonde braids.

Ryan would order a different color each time, she said. He came back, sometimes with blue hair, sometimes purple.

But Thursday morning was the last time Davis saw her sister alive.

Cotie Davis, 20, sister of crash victim Asherey Ryan

Cotie Davis, 20, sister of crash victim Asherey Ryan, talks about the loss of her sister, who she remembered as her best friend.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

A few minutes after leaving the apartment, Ryan’s car was wrecked by Linton’s Mercedes. Ryan, who was eight and a half months pregnant, was in the car with her boyfriend and their 1-year-old son.

The fiery crash left five people dead, along with Ryan’s baby, as onlookers and family struggled to understand exactly what happened.

Davis and his family began to worry when they hadn’t heard from Ryan in several hours.

Speaking to The Times from the doorway of the apartment where the sisters lived with their mother, Davis recalled her family’s desperate attempts to reach Ryan on Thursday.

There is an infant car seat at the intersection

At the intersection there is a car seat.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Calls went straight to voicemail. Text messages on his iPhone were sending green, a sign that Ryan’s phone was dead.

It didn’t make sense, Davis said. Her sister always had a charger in the car.

He thought the worst, wondering if his sister was in the fatal accident, the phone broke in the collision.

The heartbreaking confirmation came in a text message from a friend at the crash site. He took a picture of someone he thought was Ryan and sent it to Davis.

It didn’t show Ryan’s face, but the image was enough for his mother to recognize his clothes and for Davis to recognize his feet and tattoo.

“When you spend that much time with someone, you get to know every part of them,” she said.

Yana Shmuliver wipes away a tear

“Seeing a child seat on the street is something I’ll never forget,” Yana Shmuliver said as she wiped away a tear.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Davis and his family collapsed. His screams drew the attention of his next-door neighbor, Josephine Harris, who ran over.

“Rey Rey is gone,” Harris was told.

Few details emerged the day after the crash.

Surveillance video shows a Mercedes-Benz speeding down La Brea as dozens of cars cross Slauson. The Mercedes does not appear to slow down before running a red light and crashing into cars at the intersection. It then bursts into flames and rushes towards a light pole, where it stops.

After the crash, a streak of fire burned to the ground and billowing smoke could be seen from miles away.

A worker cleans up the scene of the accident

A worker cleans up the scene of the accident.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but Trooper Franco Pepi, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, told The Times on Thursday that investigators determined the Mercedes was traveling “at a high rate of speed” and pass a red light.

At least six vehicles were involved in the crash, Pepi said. Eight people were injured.

Authorities are reviewing Linton’s blood work to determine if he was under the influence at the time of the crash, according to two police sources.

A family member declined to speak to a Times reporter Friday.

Linton was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, and prosecutors expect to file charges Monday, charging her with the unborn child’s death, as well as five others.

CHP investigators estimate his Mercedes was going between 80 and 100 miles per hour as it approached the intersection and ran the red light, and evidence gathered so far shows no signs of braking, according to two police sources.

A specialized CHP crash investigation team is pulling data from the Mercedes’ computers that capture speed, braking and acceleration.

At least nine serious crashes have occurred on this stretch of Brea Avenue between 2013 and 2021, according to CHP data. None have been fatal.

The LA County Coroner’s Office has not released the names of anyone who died in the crash, except for Ryan.

Davis said Ryan and his other sibling, Sha’seana Kerr, were born in Los Angeles and raised in Inglewood.

In recent years, the family moved to California, where her grandmother lives, before returning to LA

As the eldest brother, Ryan, who went by the name Rey Rey, was the backbone of the family. His birthday would have been in September; Davis followed in November.

Still, Ryan brushed off his own celebration, telling Davis, “Hey sis, I know what I’m gonna get for your birthday.”

Ryan always bragged about his sisters and their accomplishments, Davis said. She beamed with pride when she learned that Davis had begun his college degree in criminal justice.

Ryan followed his younger sister and joined the program as well, but it was Davis’ graduation that he was looking forward to.

“I can’t imagine not having her at my graduation,” Davis said before breaking down in tears.

Harris, the neighbor, also felt Ryan’s sudden absence. After Harris moved to LA from Arkansas two years ago, it was Ryan who immediately befriended her.

Their front doors were a few feet apart, and the two often ran into each other in the apartment hallway, where they talked about boyfriend drama, pregnancy struggles, and past hurts.

Harris had lost his mother in 2019 and, before that, his brother in a house fire. In a recent conversation, Ryan knocked on Harris’ door, sniffed and asked if he was cooking his famous fried chicken.

“I was like, ‘Girl, I got you, I fed the first baby, so I could feed the second one,'” Harris said, referring to Ryan’s toddler and the baby still on the way.

“I wake up, I hope he’s going to walk out the door,” she said.

But Harris hasn’t been able to eat or sleep since she heard the screams next door and learned her friend had died.

“When I walk out the door, that’s the first thing I see: Rey Rey,” he said. “And it’s not there anymore.”

Times writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.

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