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Ventura County

3 Killed on Slick County Roads

Weather: Dozens of crashes are reported during Saturday's storm, which dropped two inches of rain. A parked ambulance is hit on the Ventura Freeway.

November 25, 2001|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT and TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Three people died in separate car crashes Saturday as Ventura County was being pounded by the season's most powerful rainstorm, authorities said.

The storm dropped nearly two inches of rain, contributed to dozens of less serious crashes on flooded roads and forced tow truck drivers and paramedics to race from one incident to the next.

"The roads have been bad," said California Highway Patrol Officer Doug Howell. "It's been very wet out there."

The first deadly crash occurred about 7:30 a.m. when an emergency room nurse at Santa Paula Hospital slammed into a tree while driving home to Ojai after working the graveyard shift, officers said.

The woman, whose name was withheld pending notification of her family, slammed into a tree on a tight westbound curve of California 150 between Santa Paula and Ojai. Officers said she suffered massive internal injuries and died later in the day at a Ventura hospital.

Shortly after 8 a.m., 74-year-old Jesse Gasaway of Ojai was killed when he lost control of his car on California 33, just north of Rose Valley Road in Ojai, and plunged 40 feet into a ravine, officers said.

A doctor passing the scene briefly treated Gasaway before he was pronounced dead, Howell said.

And about 2:20 p.m., a man was killed after being ejected from his car when it collided with a motor home on California 126, just east of Piru.

The man, who was not immediately identified, died at a Newhall hospital, according to CHP dispatchers.

The fatalities were just three of dozens of traffic accidents in the county that had been reported to the CHP as of early afternoon, Howell said.

The steady downpour also kept tow truck drivers busy throughout the day.

"We have had everything from accidents to tire changes to cars flipping on their roofs," said Carol Demoss, a dispatcher for eight towing companies in the county. "We have had calls backing us up and coming in right on top of each other. It's been crazy."

Between noon and 1 p.m. alone, a dozen accidents were reported, CHP dispatchers said.

101 Backed Up for Miles

Two paramedics who work for American Medical Response narrowly escaped serious injury when their parked ambulance was hit by a Ford Explorer as the pair were treating victims of a crash on the Ventura Freeway in Thousand Oaks.

"People are driving too fast and not paying attention," said John Everlove, a supervisor for the ambulance company, who was at the scene when the vehicle was struck. "We have been running nonstop all day. This has been one of the most significant call days for us in a long time," Everlove added.

Two people in the Explorer were taken to Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for treatment of minor injuries, Everlove said.

After several hours of pounding rain, the sun started to peek through the clouds about 3 p.m. but not before nearly two inches of rain fell in Santa Paula, 1.46 inches at the Ventura County Government Center and 1.65 inches at Matilija Dam, according to the county's Flood Control District.

National Weather Service officials in Oxnard were predicting the brunt of the storm would be gone by early today, replaced by partly cloudy skies with highs in the low 60s and lows in the mid-to-upper 40s.

Throughout the day, speeding drivers traveling on wet and flooded roads combined to create hazardous conditions from Thousand Oaks to Mussel Shoals.

About 3 p.m. Saturday, traffic on the southbound lanes of the Ventura Freeway was backed up from Oxnard to Thousand Oaks because of fender-benders and drivers who spun out of control.

Several power outages were also reported throughout the county, according to Southern California Edison officials.

The largest outage occurred about 3 p.m. when fierce winds toppled a tree into a power pole, knocking out service to 2,200 customers near Rancho Conejo Boulevard in Thousand Oaks. Service was restored in about an hour.

"This afternoon was a bit nuts," said Ernie Villegas, a utility spokesman.

Standing near seven Ventura city firefighters at a crash off California 33, just south of Ojai, CHP Officer Denny Drummond tried to shield himself from the pounding rain.

"It's wet and it's miserable," Drummond said as firefighters spoke with a passenger in a small sedan that had spun onto the road's shoulder. "How else would I describe it? It's raining again and people don't know how to slow down."

Another crash left a man with a serious head injury at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard after he was struck by a Ford Mustang while riding his bicycle on the 3rd Street bridge near A Street in Oxnard.

Donald Edward Taylor, 48, of Oxnard, was listed in critical condition after the crash, which occurred about 9:45 a.m.

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