Lake Elsinore woman’s ‘whole body broke’ in wrong-way 215 Freeway collision

When the driver of a stolen pickup ran from the wrong-way collision on the 215 Freeway in Menifee on Dec. 31, he left behind a Lake Elsinore resident whose “whole body broke,” the victim’s partner said.

Elizabeth Roberts, 55, who delivers for LabCorp, remains hospitalized at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.

As of Saturday, Jan. 9, she had endured five surgeries during which 10 injuries — some “life-altering” — were addressed, said Nicole Apodaca, 44, Roberts’ partner of 17 years. Her ankles, fingers and back were broken. Some fingers, nearly severed, had to be stitched back together. Roberts’ ribs broke and punctured her lungs. Pins are holding parts of Roberts together.

She is receiving “amazing” treatment, Apodaca said.

The driver, meanwhile, remains at large, Hemet police Lt. Michael Arellano said Tuesday, Jan. 12. The driver’s passenger was not helpful in identifying the driver, Arellano said, but he has not been arrested.

Officials investigate the scene of a wrong-way crash on the 215 Freeway in Menifee that the California Highway Patrol said was caused by a driver being pursued by Hemet police early Dec. 31, 2020. (LoudLabs News)

The collision happened at about 2:40 a.m. Hemet police were chasing the pickup, which had been reported stolen in Ridgecrest. Police stopped pursuing the driver when he drove down an embankment from a side road and entered the northbound 215 headed south near Scott Road. The driver shut off the Dodge Ram’s lights and abandoned the pickup even as it was still moving, police said. Less than 100 feet later, the pickup slammed into the LabCorp van.

Roberts and Apodaca had planned to celebrate their anniversary later that day.

“She doesn’t understand how somebody could do that. Neither of us do,” Apodaca said. “Our 7-year-old daughter keeps asking why — why somebody would do this.”

Roberts has worked for LabCorp for about eight years, Apodaca said. She was returning from San Diego County after dropping off specimens.

“She’s always concerned about the specimens, that everything is done correctly so people’s tests arrive safely,” Apodaca said. “She was thankful that she didn’t have any on her.”

Somehow, Roberts has been focusing on others during her recovery.

“She’s been upset and she tries to keep a really good, positive outlook even through all the surgeries and all the pain she’s in,” Apodaca said. “Liz, even in this state, she is worried about everyone else. She wants to make sure everyone else in her family is OK and knowing she’ll get through this.”