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ANAHEIM | Community News Focus

2 in Family Killed in Accident on I-40

May 29, 1997|GEOFF BOUCHER

Two members of an Anaheim family were among three fatalities in a Memorial Day crash that occurred when a crowded minivan flipped on a desert highway after a tire blowout, authorities said.

Four-year-old Michelle Velasco and her brother, Rommel, 25, were fatally injured in the 1 p.m. crash on Interstate 40 about 40 miles west of Needles, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Don Woelke.

Seven-year-old Justine Austria of Los Angeles was also killed when the 1994 Ford Aerostar rolled over at least three times, Woelke said.

Seven of the nine people in the minivan were ejected as it flipped into the center divider, he said. Two other passengers were hurt, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

"The only two people who weren't ejected were the driver and the front passenger, the only two people wearing seat belts," Woelke said. "It's very sad. These people would probably still be alive if they had their seat belts on."

The Austria and Velasco families were on their way back to Orange County after a weekend at Lake Mead and the casinos in Laughlin, Nev.

Just before the crash, reports state, the tread separated on a front tire, causing driver Romulo Velasco, 28, to lost control.

An investigation into the crash continues, Woelke said. Preliminary findings suggest that neither impaired driving or excessive speed were factors, he said.

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