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Garfield Swim Coach Dies in Crash : Richard Morris' Car Plunged 50 Feet Off Freeway

March 26, 1995|LATEEL FRIERSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Garfield High's popular swimming coach Richard Morris died last week of injuries suffered in a freeway accident in Duarte.

The 36-year-old coach was eastbound on the Foothill (210) Freeway the morning of March 20 to meet his team at Garfield High when he apparently lost control of his vehicle near the San Gabriel River Freeway (605) interchange and plunged 50 feet over the side of the freeway, officials said.

According to the California Highway Patrol, no one reported the accident until a considerable time later when a passerby, retrieving a large crate on the freeway, spotted Morris' vehicle.

Coaches, friends and teammates had become concerned because Morris was known as an extremely punctual person.

"This is a devastating loss," Garfield interim-Coach Jane Ostrowski said. "He'll be missed dearly."

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Members of the Bulldog swim team were told of Morris' death Tuesday morning.

"Some of my teammates came to my house crying at around eight in the morning and told me the news," said Bulldog swimmer Johnny Vallejo, who fought back tears as he spoke.

"(Morris) was not just a coach, he was a friend. He helped us with our personal problems. He stepped out of his teaching boundaries to make things better for us."

The accident is under investigation by the CHP.

Morris was a 1976 graduate of Garfield High. He spent two years at East Los Angeles College and graduated from Whittier College.

"He was a very giving person," said Ostrowski. "He came out of East L.A. and wanted to give back to East L.A."

"He really put energy into building the program," Athletic Director Ottis Yette said. Morris, who lived in Arcadia, leaves a wife, Sharon, and two sons, ages 9 and 7.

Memorial services were held March 24 at Lake Avenue Congressional Church in Pasadena.

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