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PCP Found in Blood of 3 Who Died as Car Sped Into Sea

May 11, 1986

SAN PEDRO — Traces of the drug PCP have been found in blood samples of three people who drowned at Cabrillo Beach last month after their car sped off a boat ramp and plunged into Los Angeles Harbor, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said.

Toxicological tests indicated "moderately" high levels of PCP in the blood of Maria Laganis, 18, Timothy Couch, 26, and Jose Talamantes, 23, a coroner's spokesman said. PCP is a strong anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties.

Los Angeles Police Sgt. Walter Wall said that the tests are inconclusive in determining whether the three were under the influence of the drug when the accident occurred. However, he said interviews with witnesses have indicated that the car was driven into the water intentionally. Police expect to conclude their investigation within several weeks.

Police had earlier speculated that the three might have been under the influence of drugs April 9 when their car sped off the ramp. Witnesses told police that the three friends spent about 45 minutes walking along the beach. Then, with Couch as the driver, they got into the car, raced the motor for four or five seconds and started driving toward the ramp, accelerating all the way.

Police estimate that the car was traveling 45 to 50 m.p.h. when it went off the ramp, became airborne and landed 60 feet offshore. The three were pronounced dead at the scene.

After the accident, Maria Laganis' mother, Agnes, said her daughter had been battling to stay clean of drugs and was enrolled in a rehabilitation program.

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