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Boss Turns In Suspect in Fatal Hit-Run Crash

October 23, 1998|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A truck driver, arrested for allegedly driving off after striking and killing a Canoga Park man who was changing a tire beside the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Northridge, was turned in by his boss, authorities said Thursday.

California Highway Patrol officers arrested Fenton Dee, 52, of Norwalk on Wednesday on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter.

As news reports spread of the police search for the truck driver after the incident Tuesday, Dee's boss recognized the license plate number on a television newscast and called authorities.

"I just couldn't believe it happened," said the boss, a manager of the TeeBerry Express trucking terminal in Santa Fe Springs. The manager, who asked that his name be withheld, said he confronted Dee about the hit-and-run accident and then called the CHP while the driver sat nearby. Dee did not try to stop him, the manager said.

"I just felt I had a moral obligation to turn him in," he said.

CHP investigators said they went to the truck terminal, inspected the dented vehicle and arrested Dee on the spot. He was being held at Van Nuys jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

"There were paint transfers on the trailer" from the car that was hit, said CHP Officer Gordon Verrone. "He basically admitted to driving the vehicle, but he didn't believe he was involved in any accident."

Witnesses told CHP officers the semitrailer swerved while traveling in the eastbound lanes of the freeway and hit Carlos Gonzalez and his rental car, which was properly parked on the shoulder near Tampa Avenue. The cause of the accident remains unclear, but Verrone said test results are pending to determine if Dee may have been impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time.

"Your average reasonable and prudent person in the same situation should have realized he had been in an accident," Verrone said. "It's quite possible [alcohol] could have contributed to him not stopping. Maybe he had something to hide."

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