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Memorial Day Weekend Traffic Toll Rises to 11 in L.A. County

May 27, 1996|From a Times Staff Writer

At least 11 people died in Los Angeles County during the first 48 hours of the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional beginning of Americans' summer road trips, the California Highway Patrol reported Sunday.

That tally includes two women killed Sunday in a crash on the Antelope Valley Freeway in Santa Clarita, the CHP said.

Two men were slightly injured in the midmorning crash, when an unidentified woman driving south in a Pontiac Firebird crossed over the center divider for unknown reasons and slammed into a northbound Toyota Tercel driven by another woman. Both women were killed, according to the CHP. Their two cars veered into another lane and struck a third car, injuring the two men.

In another incident, Los Angeles police arrested a suspected drunken driver in North Hollywood on suspicion of murder after his pickup slammed into two parked cars and killed his passenger.

The driver, Jose Torres, 24, of Pacoima, was treated for injuries and transferred to the jail ward at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The passenger, Maria Herrera, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police were able to file murder charges against Torres under the so-called "Watson rule," in which a suspected drunken driver with a previous drunken driving conviction can be charged with murder after a fatal traffic accident.

Herrera's death was one of the county's nine traffic deaths in the first 36 hours of the holiday--as compared to last year, when no one died in that time period, the CHP said.

"Last year was exceptionally low," said CHP officer Garry Goldenberg. "It's not that this year was a departure from the norm; last year was."

Traffic deaths were up across the state. During the first 36 hours of the holiday, 33 people died on California roads. Last year, the number of fatalities was 22.

The CHP said arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs were also higher in Los Angeles County this year than last, with 294 drivers arrested from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday. The same period last year recorded 262 arrests.

Statewide, 1,036 were arrested, compared to 992 last year.

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