Four friends from San Miguel were driving on Highway 101 headed to a Christmas Eve dinner Wednesday when they were killed in a collision with a semi-truck that was crossing the highway at the Wellsona Road intersection in Paso Robles.
The CHP identified the four people killed as Crystal Lee Reuck, 22; Taylor M. Swarthout, 22; Karen Michelle Szasz, 45; and David Castillo, 42. All four were in a 1992 Chrysler Town and Country van owned and driven by Reuck.
The CHP said the crash occurred as Philip Ken Trujillo, 55, of Las Vegas was driving north on Highway 101 in an International semi-truck and trailer combination about 6:15 p.m.
Trujillo was turning left from the left-turn lane onto westbound Wellsona Road as Reuck was driving south on Highway 101. As the truck crossed the southbound lanes of the highway, the Chrysler hit the trailer and was smashed completely under it, according to the CHP.
Reuck, Swarthout, and Szasz were pronounced dead at the scene. Castillo was taken to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, where he died, according to the CHP. Trujillo, the driver of the truck, was uninjured.
Larry Reuck said his granddaughter, Crystal, and the others had just stopped by his home in San Miguel and were on their way to Paso Robles to have dinner with Castillo’s family.
“They came here first, and we gave her a Christmas present,” Reuck said. “They had just left here and were headed to Paso Robles. We were going to see her the next day.
“Her parents are crushed. She was their only child.”
Reuck said he had only met Swarthout a couple of times and Szasz just that day, but that Castillo was his granddaughter’s boyfriend.
Crystal Reuck grew up in San Miguel with her parents, Raymond and Candace Shoemaker, and attended local schools, her grandfather said. She had recently started working at a Motel 6 in Paso Robles and bought the van with her earnings. Larry Reuck had just made some repairs and given the van a tune-up, he said.
“She was looking forward to getting her next paycheck and really getting her life together,” Reuck said.
Her dog, an Australian shepherd mix named Partner, was also injured in the crash, and a friend had volunteered to pay the veterinary bill, “whatever the cost,” Reuck said.
Personal information about the others in the crash wasn’t available Thursday evening.
At the time of the collision it wasn't raining, the roadway was dry and nothing was blocking visibility, according to the CHP. The cause of the accident hadn’t been determined Thursday.
Reuck said the Highway 101 and Wellsona Road intersection is notoriously dangerous.
“I was in the fire department for 15 years, and we went out there a lot,” he said. “It’s dicey even when it’s daylight and the weather is good. They need to put in a traffic signal. At night, especially, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
A similar crash occurred May 30, according to The Tribune archives, although no one was killed. In that accident, a man driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee north on Highway 101 turned left onto Wellsona Road as another vehicle was headed south on the highway. The two cars collided with one driver sustaining major injuries and the other suffering moderate injuries.