Street racing in Santa Ana takes life of longtime OC Register editor

Credit: Santa Ana Police

A longtime newspaper editor died in a fiery crash triggered by a street race involving two other drivers, Santa Ana police said.

The crash was reported around 11:40 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Santa Clara Avenue and Bristol Street. 

The drivers of a BMW and Infinity were racing north on Bristol when the BMW slammed into a Ford F-150 pickup truck making a left turn on Santa Clara to southbound Bristol, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

The pickup skidded 60 to 70 feet into a wall and caught fire, he said.

Two residents dashed out of their nearby home to help pull the driver out of the wreckage as a police officer on scene helped extinguish the blaze, Bertagna said.

Eugene Harbrecht, 67, was rushed to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The Santa Ana resident had worked at the Orange County Register since 1984, most recently as the national and international news editor for the greater Southern California News Group, according to the newspaper.

The driver of the totaled BMW was also transported to an area hospital with injuries of unknown severity, according to Bertagna, who said police later tracked down the driver of the Infinity and took him into custody.

The driver of the Infinity was identified as Ricardo Tolento Navarro from Santa Ana. He was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and booked at the Santa Ana Jail.

Ricardo Tolento Navarro

The driver of the BMW, identified as Louie Robert Villa from Santa Ana, was arrested at the hospital for felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. He remains in custody at an area hospital.

The Santa Ana Police Department’s Collision Investigations Unit is handling the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Cpl. D. Carrillo at (714) 245-8346 or the Santa Ana Police Department’s Traffic Division at (714) 245-8200.