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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Thousand Oaks

2 Freeway Accidents Cause Traffic Delays

September 15, 2000

Two early morning accidents, including one involving an allegedly intoxicated man driving his car in reverse down the Ventura Freeway, snarled traffic Thursday, but caused no fatalities.

In the first accident, authorities say Dennis Cantwell, 33, of Thousand Oaks was under the influence of alcohol as he drove south on Moorpark Road at Hillcrest Drive about 7:40 a.m. Cantwell rear-ended a car and then drove onto the southbound Ventura Freeway, authorities said.

Cantwell headed toward the center divider, where he then put his car in reverse and drove backward, said California Highway Patrol Officer Annie Vaught. His car drifted into the No. 1 southbound lane, where it struck another car, driven by a 39-year-old Camarillo woman. The woman, whose name was not available, suffered moderate injuries, authorities said.

Authorities closed the first and second lanes of traffic for about 30 minutes, causing a heavy backup for morning commuters.

Cantwell was taken to Simi Valley Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition. Vaught said Cantwell, who had a "high alcohol blood content," will be booked on suspicion of felony drunk driving.

The second accident occurred 20 minutes later on California 126. Authorities said a westbound bluish-gray compact car, just west of the Los Angeles County line, drifted into the center divider and then crossed into the first lane of eastbound traffic.

Cindy Garcia, 35, of Buellton veered her Saturn to the left in an attempt to avoid the wayward car. She over-corrected, however, ended up in the westbound lanes, and was struck by a Toyota.

Authorities stopped traffic so a helicopter could airlift a passenger in Garcia's car to Simi Valley Hospital. The passenger, whose name was not available, had two broken leg bones, Vaught said. The driver of the Toyota suffered minor injuries.

Garcia was driven by ambulance to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital, where she was held overnight for observation, hospital officials said.

The driver of the compact car blamed for causing the accident never stopped, authorities said. Anyone with information on the driver should call the California Highway Patrol at 477-4130.

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