A 15-year-old boy was killed and three other teens were injured in a crash on the northbound 710 Freeway that police today said involved a stolen Kia Optima that collided with a big rig and caught fire.

Officers were sent to the 100 block of Jaymills Avenue at about 10:10 p.m. Monday “regarding a stolen vehicle,” according to the Long Beach Police Department.

“The calling party advised her Kia had been stolen, however, she located the vehicle and could see four occupants inside the car,” police said in a statement. “As officers were responding, the vehicle left the area.”

The Long Beach Police Department’s helicopter began tracking the vehicle, but there were no officers in pursuit when the Kia crashed into a semi-truck on the 710 Freeway, police said.

“Officers were quickly on scene and pulled the four occupants from the stolen vehicle as it became engulfed in flames. Officers rendered medical aid until (Long Beach Fire Department personnel) transported all four occupants to local hospitals,” police said.

The crash occurred on the northbound 710 Freeway near Anaheim Street according to the California Highway Patrol.

Video footage at the scene showed LBPD officers dragging several people from the burning Kia and attempting to douse the flames with fire extinguishers before the arrival of LBFD personnel. Firefighters then knocked down the fire in the burning Kia, CHP Officer Erik Larsen told City News Service.

Support facts not fear

News happens fast. In the midst of crime, disasters and other breaking news, the Long Beach Post has reporters and photographers who run to the scene to bring you reliable information. If you value this vital community resource, support it with a tax-deductible donation.

The LBPD will be investigating any possible criminal charges related to the crash and the CHP will handle the traffic portion of the investigation, Larsen said.

According to the CHP, the 2020 Kia was being driven by a 15-year-old Long Beach boy, who died at a hospital. His name was not immediately released.

Also in the Kia were two girls, ages 13 and 15, both of Long Beach; and a 14-year-old boy from Los Angeles, according to the CHP, which reported that the three were taken to a hospital for treatment of “moderate” injuries.

The driver of the big rig was not injured, the CHP reported.

“The preliminary investigation indicates a 15-year-old male of Long Beach, CA was driving a stolen 2020 Kia, transitioning from Shoreline Drive to northbound I-710 in the #2 lane,” a CHP statement said. “A 22-year-old male was driving a 2024 Freightliner in the #4 lane. As the Kia passed the Freightliner, the 15-year-old male turned sharply to the west — appeared to (be) trying to exit I-710 onto the Anaheim Street off-ramp — directly in front of the Freightliner tractor. The front of the Freightliner crashed into the right side of the stolen Kia. It is unknown if alcohol and/or drugs were a factor in this crash.”

All lanes of the northbound freeway were closed for several hours while police conducted their investigation of the crash and looked for evidence related to the crash. Any witnesses or anyone with further information is encouraged to contact CHP Officer Gonzales at the South Los Angeles Area office, 424-551-4000; or the CHP Los Angeles Communications Center at 323-259- 3200.

“This tragic event highlights a nationwide trend in which juveniles are stealing vehicles and driving recklessly,” LBPD Chief Wally Hebeish said in a statement. “While the driver of the vehicle ultimately succumbed to his injuries, I must commend the officers for their heroic actions. I am extremely proud of their courage and willingness to run toward this dangerous situation in order to rescue the occupants. I believe their actions prevented the further loss of life and demonstrates their commitment to public safety.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more information, including that the LBPD says they were not pursuing the vehicle when it crashed.