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Ventura County

Camarillo High Freshman Jogging With Father Is Hit by Car, Killed

December 13, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 14-year-old member of the Camarillo High School cross-country team died early Wednesday after being struck by a car while jogging along Santa Rosa Road with her father, who called for an immediate reduction of traffic speeds in the area.

Jennifer Lynn Bonds, a freshman member of the varsity team, was pronounced dead at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks from massive head injuries.

She had been struck about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday by a 1986 Ford Thunderbird as she jogged just ahead of her father along a westbound stretch of Santa Rosa Road west of Yucca Road between Camarillo and Moorpark.

"I'm devastated. She was my life," said Paul Bonds, who lives with his wife and other children just off Santa Rosa Road near Camarillo. "She turned one foot and this guy comes by. I was right behind her. He should have taken me."

The driver of the car, 59-year-old Pedro Valenzuela of Oxnard, was questioned at the scene but was not cited, said Officer Steven Reid of the California Highway Patrol.

Bonds said watching his youngest daughter get hit by a car was a tragic way to demonstrate what he and his neighbors have been saying: Santa Rosa Road is heavily traveled and drivers often exceed the speed limit.

Reid said the accident occurred in a section of road where the speed limit is 55 mph. Valenzuela was going no faster than 40 mph at the time, he said.

"It wasn't like she darted out in the lane to where the car was," Reid said. "[But] the speed of the vehicle involved was not an issue."

The teenager was hit as she stepped to her left from the road's shoulder while looking for a clear path to cross the road, Reid said.

She was thrown onto the car's hood before hitting the pavement, he said.

Paul Bonds said he and Jennifer had just started their regular nine-mile jog, which they had done at least three times a week while she recovered from a stress fracture to her foot.

He said Valenzuela was going "at least 65 to 70, maybe 75. No one drives that area [at the speed limit]."

Bonds said he and other Santa Rosa Valley residents plan to ask the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to stem increasing traffic on the two-lane county roadway.

Bonds said on two occasions he has stood at Moorpark and Santa Rosa roads at rush-hour and counted the number of people in each vehicle. He said 96% of the 500 drivers he counted each time were alone.

He has also seen numerous cars race through the otherwise quiet valley. Other members of his family have had close calls as well, he said.

"They are all too worried about putting asphalt down to come up with alternative methods like ride sharing or car-pooling," Bonds said. "People don't realize they are driving a weapon. I moved out here 20 years ago to avoid this."

Bonds, his wife, Dottie, and Jennifer's siblings gathered with friends Wednesday at their home on Las Posas Road.

"I thought I could have enough strength to wake her up" from her hospital bed, said Jennifer's older sister, Lori, 21, who remained with her dying sister until after midnight Tuesday. "Jennifer was my heart. My heart is gone."

At the site of the accident, a small memorial with flowers and a ceramic gold angel had been erected.

County officials say they had already planned to address the increased traffic on the roadway, which begins at the Ventura Freeway in Camarillo and ends at Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks.

Bids are being taken for a $4-million traffic light project for the intersection of Moorpark and Santa Rosa roads that would better regulate traffic, said Butch Britt, the county's deputy director of public works for transportation.

Other methods under discussion include installing medians to eliminate unsafe vehicle passings and adding a second lane in each direction.

County Supervisor Frank Schillo said he will ask the board to revise the stoplight plan, which would allow cars entering Santa Rosa Road from Moorpark to avoid stopping, in a traffic pattern known as "free-flow."

Such a plan would only encourage cars to go faster as they merge onto Santa Rosa Road at the intersection, which is about two miles from the crash site.

"If you have a free-flow lane you will encourage higher speeds," said Susan Clay, an aide to Schillo.

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