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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Deer Blamed for Fatal Toll Road Crash

May 28, 1999

ANAHEIM — A wayward deer is being blamed for an accident that killed an Anaheim woman this week on the Eastern toll road, which has been plagued by collisions of cars and wild animals since it opened last fall.

Catherine Silva, 46, died at dusk Tuesday when the car she was driving veered and overturned on the toll road about a mile south of the Riverside Freeway. Her aunt, who was also in the car, reported that her niece swerved to miss a deer, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP is continuing to investigate, Officer Joann O'Hair said.

Silva is survived by her husband and four sons, ages 16 to 27.

At least 30 animals, including at least 12 deer, have been killed by traffic on the 17-mile highway since it opened in October.

No human deaths had been blamed on encounters with wildlife until Silva died this week.

Silva and her aunt, Alice Urisca, 61, also of Anaheim, were headed north in a car going about 80 mph to 85 mph, officers said.

The accident occurred at 8:25 p.m. about a mile north of the Windy Ridge toll plaza. The car appeared to drift into the center divider, swerve to the right, slide across the northbound lanes and hit the right berm, overturning and ejecting Silva, according to the police report.

Richard Silva, 50, said Urisca told him that his wife had swerved to avoid a deer.

"Why aren't there any fences up there? Her life and others could have been saved," he said.

The tollway's builder, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, has spent $250,000 to improve fences along the highway and recently approved $490,000 more in improvements.

But it has no plans to build a higher fence in the area where Silva died. Some deer experts say the current 6-foot fence is too short to deter the high-jumping animals.

Urisca is in stable condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, a hospital spokeswoman said.

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