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7 Hurt When Van Carrying UC Irvine Soccer Team Collides With SUV

October 27, 2002|Paul McLeod | Times Staff Writer

A van carrying members of the UC Irvine men's soccer team collided with another vehicle and crashed Saturday morning at a Costa Mesa freeway interchange, injuring seven people, one seriously.

Several passengers were not wearing seat belts.

The van was one of two university-owned vehicles carrying 21 players and coaches to a Big West Conference game at UC Riverside. The other van was not involved.

The most seriously hurt passenger was taken to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana with injuries to his chest, arms and legs, said Capt. Randy Croll of the Costa Mesa Fire Department. The university declined to release the names of the injured, but several team members identified the most seriously hurt as freshman forward Kyle Close of Elk Grove.

Six others were taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach with cuts, bruises and possible back injuries.

Chris Volk, an assistant coach, was driving the oversized van when it left Crawford Hall with about 10 people, said Irvine Coach George Kuntz, who was riding with Volk. Neither Volk nor Kuntz was injured.

Volk was entering the northbound Costa Mesa Freeway from the Corona del Mar Freeway about 10:30 a.m. when it caromed off an SUV driven by an unidentified woman.

The collision sent the van careening to its right, where it hit an embankment and toppled onto its right side. The SUV driver did not stop, officials said.

Firefighters and paramedics from Costa Mesa and Newport Beach responded and closed the northbound Baker Street offramp for more than an hour.

"There is a certain question as to whether -- or how many of them -- were wearing seat belts," Croll said. "That certainly can contribute to injuries in any accident."

The California Highway Patrol is investigating, a spokesman in Santa Ana said.

Teammates and family members met at Hoag on Saturday afternoon as the injured were treated.

"This reminds you how fragile life is," said senior midfielder Joel Spencer, who said he was not wearing a seat belt while riding in the van that crashed but was not injured. Several more players probably were not strapped in, he said.

Ben Bush, a junior defender, was riding in the second van and said that he had a good view of the accident. "[The driver of the SUV] , merged into [Volk's] lane and clipped the front left of the van," he said. "The van spun out and I think he tried to correct it, but he over-corrected and it spun around and flipped on its side."

Kuntz said Volk had very little time to react. "The lady pulled into our van and it flipped," he said.

"Our primary concern is with the well-being of the players and their respective recoveries," said Petrina Long, Irvine's associate athletic director.

Saturday's accident was at least the seventh report nationwide in the last two years of serious injuries to college players traveling to athletic events.

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