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Ventura County

7 Killed in Traffic Accidents During Holiday Weekend

Deaths: Ventura County toll accounted for about one-fifth of the fatalities statewide. Rain is blamed in several crashes.


With seven people killed in separate crashes throughout Ventura County, authorities on Monday said the Thanksgiving weekend had been one of the deadliest holiday periods in more than a decade.

The accidents, occurring from Friday to Sunday, were caused by suspected drunk driving, a heart attack and speeding. Rain-slicked roads contributed to several of them. In two cases, victims might have survived if they had been wearing seat belts, police said.

"This is one of the worst holiday weekends I can ever remember," said Officer Dave Webb of the California Highway Patrol's Ventura office. "I can't recall having so many fatalities in such a short period of time."

Weather experts warned that a fast-moving cold front is headed to the area and that more rain is likely by early Thursday.

Traffic deaths in Ventura County accounted for about one-fifth of all fatalities statewide during the holiday weekend. The last time there were more than two traffic deaths in the county during a Thanksgiving holiday was in 1990, when five people were killed, Webb said.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1988, a drunk driver veered into oncoming traffic on California 126 outside Fillmore, killing himself and six others, including a woman who was five months pregnant.

Throughout the state, traffic deaths increased from 28 to 39, a jump of more than 35%.

Webb and other officials blamed the increase partly on the number of people who opted to drive instead of fly during the holiday in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

For the third consecutive year, arrests of motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol held steady at about two dozen in the county. During the four-day stretch, officers handled 54 nonfatal crashes.

As a result of the accidents, CHP officers are cracking down on unbelted motorists, issuing $24 citations for violations. Webb spent Monday afternoon telling a class of Ventura third-graders to buckle up and remind their parents to do so too.

"We spend a lot of money on car insurance and stereos and such and here's a standard piece of equipment people sometimes fail to use but will save lives," said Steve Kohler, a spokesman for the state CHP office in Sacramento.

Of the seven deaths in Ventura County, three occurred on Saturday during heavy rains on highways near Ojai, Santa Paula and Piru.

Another case involved an Oxnard man who was struck by a train Friday as he drove a tractor across the tracks near Camarillo.

Authorities on Monday released the names of three men who died a day earlier.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, Joaquin Montanez, 40, of Canoga Park lost control of his car on Potrero Road in Thousand Oaks, rolled and was ejected. The crash was alcohol-related, Webb said.

An hour earlier, Alan Friedman, 50, of Ventura crashed his motorcycle on California 150 near Camp Bartlett and died instantly.

Also on Sunday, 48-year-old Donald Edward Taylor of Oxnard died at an Oxnard hospital after being struck by a car a day earlier while riding his bicycle in the rain.

Last year, 61 people died in traffic crashes in the county. This year, there have been 45 deaths so far.

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