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Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California — May 1, 2011

Police say alcohol played a part in a crash south of Cardiff-by-the-Sea on Sundy evening that left two people dead and three hurt.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department reports that the collision happened around 8:05 p.m. near the intersection of MacKinnon Ranch Road and Manchester Avenue, just off Interstate 5, near San Elijo Lagoon.

Paramedics summoned to the scene pronounced two people dead: one seated in a vehicle and and one prone in the roadway. Three injured travelers were also present and one was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

None of the people involved has been identified by name and none of the vehicles described.

Police shut down Manchester Avenue for roughly 11 hours as they conducted an investigation, attended to the dead and injured and removed debris.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the number of fatalities along America’s roadways declined in 2010 for the fifth-straight year. The total number of highway deaths last year was 32,788, down 3 percent over 2009.

UPDATE: Medical examiners in San Diego County have identified the passenger in the rear seat of the vehicle — a 1974 Porsche Targa — as Christina Donaghy, 42. Investigators say the Targa hit a 1997 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck in a head-to-head collision, then caught fire

Ms. Donaghy was not restrained by a safety belt at the time of the crash and was reportedly ejected. Another deceased passenger has been identified only as a Tahoe City man, 62. The unidentified driver was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he was listed in serious condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 85 percent of adults use safety belts, compared to only 81 percent of travelers in 2002. Overall, seat belt use has risen dramatically since 1982 when the usage rate was only 11 percent.

UPDATE: Another deceased passenger, Tahoe City resident Tom Couberly, has been identified by police. Investigators say he was seated in the passenger seat and died from burns suffered when the Targa crashed and caught fire.

The driver has not yet been identified.

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