An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in a southern Nevada crash early Saturday that killed five members of a California family and injured the suspect and three others.
Jean Soriano of California was booked into the Clark County Detention Center after he was treated and released at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Loy Hixson said.
The crash happened at about 3 a.m. on Interstate 15 near the Utah line. The teen's sport utility vehicle struck a van from behind, causing both vehicles to spin out of control and roll near Mesquite, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, investigators said.
Seven family members from Southern California were in the van, and five of them were killed, authorities said. The other two were taken to the Las Vegas medical center in critical condition.
A 23-year-old passenger in the SUV also was treated at the hospital and released.
Soriano is believed to have been returning from a visit with family in Utah to his home in California at the time of the wreck, Hixson said. Authorities didn't immediately release his hometown or the names or hometowns of the victims.
Some beer bottles were found in the SUV, Hixson said, and troopers performed a blood-alcohol test on Soriano at the hospital. The results won't be known for a couple of weeks, he said.
Hixson said the crash demonstrates why the Nevada Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies stress the importance of buckling up. Only two of the seven people in the van were wearing seatbelts, he said. Four of the five who were not buckled in were ejected.
"Unfortunately, so many in the van weren't wearing seatbelts, and some might have survived had they been wearing them," Hixson told The Associated Press. "We see it so many times where people can survive simply by having a seatbelt on."
The wreck also shows why the Nevada Highway Patrol and other agencies run frequent public service announcements discouraging drinking and driving, he added.
"We put that message out for a reason — so we don't have tragedies like this," Hixson said. "Unfortunately, it takes incidents like this to have people open their eyes. Some people need a reality check to get that message."
The van was carrying a couple, their children and some aunts and uncles, he said. The only survivors in it were the 40-year-old female driver and a 15-year-old boy. Killed were three men in their 40s, a teenage female and an adult female.