Five people have tragically lost their lives in a single-car accident in Bakersfield, according to authorities in the area. The California Highway Patrol confirmed five fatalities in the crash, which happened around 5 p.m. the afternoon of Feb. 16. The cause of the accident is not yet confirmed, so the official investigation is still underway as of this report. 

According to preliminary findings, it appears a minivan carrying three adults and two children was traveling northbound on Highway 99 when the accident occurred. For reasons that have not yet been articulated, the vehicle left the roadway traveling at some 70 mph and struck a tree head-on. The force of the impact was enough to trap the driver in the front seat, where he was later cut out of his seat belt by emergency responders. 

Unfortunately, medical crews were unable to save the vehicle occupants, including the driver, the male and female adult passengers, and both children, who have not been identified publicly at this time. One car seat was found inside the vehicle and is believed to have been improperly installed. It is unclear whether the rest of the occupants of the vehicle were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, and police have not ruled out intoxication or recklessness as possible causes for the accident. 

An accident causing fatalities is obviously tragic, and this is even more true if the crash could have been prevented. California police will document the cause for the crash, and while no criminal charges will be filed against the driver posthumously, the families of the deceased can seek justice through alternate means. They are entitled under state law to file wrongful death lawsuits against the driver’s estate in civil court, and can use any evidence uncovered by police documenting the driver’s material contribution to the crash to support their cases.