Two people were critically injured Sunday when their car was broadsided during a suspected drag race at a popular Sylmar street-racing spot, police said.
The area where the accident occurred on San Fernando Road has been the site of illegal street races for many years. Just a week ago, a woman was killed and her two children were seriously hurt when their car was rear-ended by a speeding car on the way to another illegal road race.
The latest accident occurred about 2:45 a.m. Sunday, when Christopher Delmendo, 23, of North Hollywood attempted a U-turn on San Fernando Road near Sepulveda Place and his car was broadsided by a second vehicle, police said.
Delmendo and an unidentified 16-year-old passenger from Sun Valley were thrown from their 1993 Honda Civic and were being treated at local hospitals. A second passenger, Miguel Rincon, 20, also of Sun Valley, who was wearing a seat belt, was admitted to Northridge Hospital Medical Center for observation.
"The suspicion is very high that this was a street race," said Valley Traffic Division Officer Phil Walters, "due to the number of people at the scene, the types of cars, and the ages of the kids."
All three occupants of the second vehicle, driven by Walter Clarke, 21, of Arleta, were treated for minor injuries at the scene and held for questioning.
All three were wearing seat belts and the driver's air bag inflated upon impact, police said.
"Some of the witnesses admitted knowing that street racing was going on at the time," said Officer Kelene Gibson. She said she and Walters also received a report from a police helicopter that there was street racing going on in the area shortly before the accident occurred.
But she said witnesses denied that the two cars involved in the accident were racing.
Police said the illegal races, which have resulted in four deaths in the past two years, have been a tradition in Sylmar for two generations.
The impromptu races usually start out with teens cruising streets looking for something to do, police said. By the time they arrive on the streets where they race, there are hundreds of onlookers.
Despite checking race spots on popular weekend nights, police said dwindling resources and the racers' constantly changing venues have prevented them from eradicating the problem.
Authorities say teen-agers and young adults from all over the Southland are attracted to the street race courses. Increasingly, gang members have been attracted to the drag races.
There have been two fatal shootings connected with the events within the past year, police said.
No arrests have been made in the latest incident and an investigation is ongoing.