A man who was a passenger in a stolen car was fatally injured Friday in Panorama City when the vehicle sped through a stop sign, was hit by another car and then careened into a tree, Los Angeles police said.
Jose Vasquez, 20, of Panorama City was killed in the accident at Chase Street and Matilija Avenue. The 12:25 a.m. accident was witnessed by a police officer who was about to pull over the car and ticket the driver for speeding.
The 17-year-old driver of the stolen car was slightly injured and was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and auto theft, police said.
The driver of the second car was uninjured, although his car was destroyed.
Officer Ed Pedneau said the 17-year-old was driving a car that had been reported stolen by a Reseda resident Thursday evening. Police said the car was heading south on Matilija Avenue at an estimated 70 m.p.h. The car failed to stop at a Chase Street stop sign and was struck broadside by a car driven by Somkid Metriyakool, 36, of Arleta.
The force of the collision pushed the stolen car onto a lawn where it slammed into a tree, Pedneau said.
"Both cars were totaled--crushed like beer cans," Pedneau said.
The driver of the stolen car crawled out of its shattered back window and waited for paramedics, Pedneau said. A patrol officer who had followed the car for half a block was first to arrive at the scene. Firefighters used hydraulic tools to free the passenger.
Vasquez was taken to Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Panorama City, where he died at 1:50 a.m., police said. The driver, who is from Reseda, was treated at Panorama Community Hospital and released to police. He was being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, Detective Dennis Ulick said.
The 17-year-old was apparently speeding through the residential neighborhood for no reason, Ulick said. The stolen car was not being chased by the patrol car. The officer who briefly followed the car driven by the teen-ager did not know it was stolen at the time, police said.
"The suspect categorically denies that he saw the patrol car," Ulick said. "He was just driving without regard to his surroundings. He didn't see the officer. He didn't see the stop sign. He just wasn't paying attention."