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DUI suspected as head-on collision leaves three dead

February 6, 2013

For the Leader

JOHNSON VALLEY • An off-road racer participating in the King of the Hammers was identified as the driver who was arrested in suspicion of driving drunk and killing three Hesperia teenagers in a head-on collision Saturday night, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Charles Wayne Persons, 31, of Thousand Oaks, was booked into the West Valley Detention Center for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s website.

Persons’ bail is set at $250,000, and he was scheduled to be arraigned in Morongo court Tuesday. The District Attorney’s office hasn’t received the case yet, spokesman Christopher Lee said Monday morning.

Persons had been camping out near the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area for the annual off-road race, CHP Sgt. Bill Green said by phone Monday. He was practicing all day Saturday and was headed to Yucca Valley in the evening to get some supplies.

The accident happened at about 8:10 p.m. when Persons was driving his 2012 Chevy Silverado pickup truck southbound on two-lane Old Woman Springs Road (Highway 247) near Ol Vine Road.

Trying to pass several other vehicles, Persons crossed over the double yellow lines and got into the northbound lane near the crest, Green said. At the same time, a 2001 Saturn sedan, driven by 18-year-old Tyler Shane Correll, was traveling northbound and climbing up the hill.

The two drivers saw each other, Green said. Persons and Correll swerved in the same direction and collided “headlights to headlights,” according to Green. The two cars ended up on the east shoulder of the road.

Correll and his two passengers — Jordan La Rocque, 17, and Ruben Ramos, 18 — died before fire rescuers extricated them.

Persons was transported to Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree for a back injury before he was arrested, Green said.

His passenger, Brandon Swink, 35, of Thousand Oaks, suffered internal head bleeding and spinal compression in the lower back, according to Green. Swink was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Old Woman Springs Road was closed near the scene for about an hour and half, according to Green.

Correll, La Rocque and Ramos were on their way back from Yucca Valley where they were running a family errand, Green said. Ramos, who was sitting in the rear seat, didn’t have his seat belt on, according to Green.

Tomoya Shimura may be reached at (760) 955-5368 or Follow Tomoya on Facebook at