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3 Children, Mother Die in Hit-Run

September 19, 2002|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A hit-and-run driver struck and killed three children and their mother as they crossed a street in the Florence area Wednesday night, then crashed his van into a tree and was caught by witnesses, authorities said.

The crash occurred at 7:22 p.m. on Compton Avenue and East 70th Street, said California Highway Patrol Officer Darren Wybenga.

Eduardo Borrera said he "saw the man coming like 65 or 70 mph. He hit them and just kept on going like he didn't care. He didn't even make an attempt to stop."

Authorities said the woman was 31, and her children were boys ages 2 and 3, and a 6-year-old girl. Two of them died at King/Drew Medical Center.

The driver, a 30-year-old, ran from his van after it crashed. Witnesses caught him a few blocks away as he tried to place a call at a telephone booth.

The mother and children had been walking home from a clinic on Florence Avenue and were in a crosswalk, Wybenga said. Witnesses told authorities that two vehicles had stopped for them. Suddenly, the driver barreled through, Wybenga said.

"Witnesses said the other drivers honked their horns to get him to stop," Wybenga said. "But he hit them. Their bodies were thrown a good distance. The driver sped away."

Wybenga said there was "no indication of pre-impact braking or post-impact braking. He just drove right through."

Witness Francisco Noriega said the driver dragged the victims 20 or 30 feet "and kept going."

The children's 27-year-old father arrived later and identified the bodies of his family.

The unidentified driver was being investigated for driving under the influence, Wybenga said.

Some residents said they have long complained about reckless drivers on dimly lighted Compton Avenue, which is in an unincorporated county area just south of downtown Los Angeles.

"It's like a freeway here. People don't care," said Leticia Valenzuela, 32.

Donald Jones, who lives near the scene, said there "are a lot of blind spots on this street. People park their trucks up and down the avenue, and then people walk in between them to cross the street, but you can't see them."

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Times staff writer Louis Sahagun contributed to this report.

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