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Woman, 19, Killed in Drag-Racing Accident

Tragedy: Her boyfriend, who was speeding against his brother in El Rio, is injured.

April 18, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES and MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The 19-year-old mother of a month-old girl was killed and her boyfriend seriously injured after he lost control of his car while drag-racing against his brother in El Rio and slamming head-on into another vehicle, police said.

Noemi Romero, an Oxnard resident who gave birth to the couple's daughter, Daveena, on March 15 and graduated from Hueneme High School in June, was pronounced dead at the scene of the Tuesday night crash, Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Armando Chavez said.

Darnell Thompson, 20, of Oxnard, who graduated from Hueneme High School in 2000, was the driver of the black 1988 Honda Civic, California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Reid said.

Thompson was listed in serious condition at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard Wednesday, hospital officials said.

His 21-year-old brother, Donald, a 1999 graduate and former football star at Hueneme High, was not injured. He was driving a white Honda Civic.

The driver of the other car involved in the crash, Gabriella Ayala, 19, of Oxnard, was treated for minor injuries and released from Ventura County Medical Center. Her 2-year-old daughter, who was strapped in a child-protective seat in the 1991 Camaro, was not injured, Reid said.

No arrests have been made, Reid said. CHP investigators will turn over their findings to the district attorney's office.

Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, Reid said.

The dead woman's mother, Maria Romero, was grieving with family and friends Wednesday at her Port Hueneme home while making funeral plans for the second-oldest of her four children.

She said Noemi had known Darnell Thompson since they were in high school and that her daughter told her on more than one occasion that Thompson liked to race.

"And I always told her don't get in the car with him," Romero said. "I'm going with my faith now and my family is giving me strength."

Court records show that the Thompson brothers had been cited in recent years for speeding or reckless driving.

On May 25, Darnell Thompson was cited by Oxnard police and paid a $114 fine for "exceeding safe speed." Six days later, he was cited for "speed exhibition." He paid a $385 fine and was placed on three years' probation.

Donald Thompson paid a $270 fine for speeding after being cited in November 2000 by Ventura County sheriff's deputies. In March 2001, he was stopped by deputies and cited for being an unlicensed driver and driving with a suspended license. He was ordered to pay a $420 fine.

It was unknown whether Donald Thompson's driving privileges had been reinstated before the crash, Reid said.

Noemi Romero's daughter, Daveena, was born six weeks premature, Maria Romero said. Because of an intestinal irregularity, the infant has spent the last few weeks at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

The couple were living with Thompson's relatives in Oxnard.

Several witnesses told investigators that before the accident the Thompson brothers sped side by side down Rose Avenue north of the Ventura Freeway. The road has a posted speed of 45 mph, Reid said.

As the cars headed south on Rose near Walnut Drive, Darnell Thompson lost control of his car, drove over a divider and slammed into Ayala's car, Reid said.

Romero's death on Tuesday was the latest in a string of recent tragedies that have touched the Hueneme High School campus.

On March 27, Artis Jackson, a 25-year-old former member of the school's football team, was stabbed to death after a fight in an Oxnard apartment.

Four days earlier, 18-year-old Jessica Ann Mohorko, a promising senior at the school, was killed when the car in which she was riding was broadsided by a CHP patrol car in pursuit of a speeding motorist.

Mohorko's boyfriend, Chris Haynes, the captain of the Hueneme High football team, was driving the car in which she was riding. He was injured in the accident.

Earlier this year, a popular member of the school's student government died of cancer.

Yearbook photographs of Noemi show an elegant, serious-looking girl who performed alongside the school's marching band at sporting events as a member of the flag auxiliary.

"It's been tough and it's been a somber time," football Coach Larry Miller said. "There's the realization that you never know what can happen, so you have to be all you can be."

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