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LOS ANGELES

Freeway Backups Stretch for Miles After Fatal Crash

Highways: A motorist dies and two Caltrans workers are injured as car veers into closed lanes near downtown.

November 02, 2001|GEORGE RAMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A car crashed into a closed-off repair zone on the Hollywood Freeway near downtown Los Angeles early Thursday, killing the motorist, injuring two workers and creating a massive commuter tie-up that backed up traffic to Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley.

California Highway Patrol officers said a 1999 white Pontiac Grand Am crossed through a line of cones into a closed portion of the southbound freeway about a quarter mile north of the downtown four-level interchange and hit a flatbed construction truck about 4:15 a.m.

The collision knocked the truck into the freeway's fast lane, pinning one worker against the center guardrail. A second worker was hit by the car as he tried to avoid it, investigators said.

Officers said the car overturned in the crash, leaving it a crumpled mass of metal on the roadway.

The motorist was pronounced dead at the scene, and his identify was not immediately released, pending notification of next of kin.

CHP Sgt. Michael Texieira said investigators were unsure what caused the auto to crash into the coned-off lanes. But "speeding may have been a factor," he said, noting that the closed freeway lanes were clearly marked. The two workers, Arturo Villalpando, 35, of Garden Grove and Felix Barrios, 46, of Rancho Cucamonga, were taken to County-USC Medical Center.

Officers said Villalpando suffered a fractured hip, and Barrios had a separated shoulder.

The two are employed by Peterson-Chase, a general contracting firm in Orange County that was doing the freeway repair work.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation said two lanes were closed on the southbound Hollywood Freeway to repair and replace the guardrail.

The overnight repair work is part of an extensive project to repair the freeway and others that make up U.S. 101 from downtown to the Ventura County line, spokeswoman Margie Tiritilli said.

CHP dispatchers said the accident had a ripple effect on the morning commute, backing up traffic on the southbound Hollywood Freeway to Lankershim Boulevard near North Hollywood until nearly noon.

It also created a nightmare for motorists headed west on the Foothill Freeway in Pasadena.

"I usually don't have to put up with this," said one frustrated motorist, Julia Green of Eagle Rock, who was 45 minutes late to her job in the Civic Center.

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