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Los Angeles

Woman Hit by Van in Crosswalk Dies

Accident: Second victim is in critical condition after miscarrying. Authorities consider charges against driver.

September 20, 2002|WENDY THERMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of two women struck by a minivan while walking in a San Fernando crosswalk died and the other was in critical condition after a miscarriage, officials said Thursday.

Police said the driver, whose name was not released, was not arrested but that authorities are considering whether to seek charges against her in the deaths Wednesday of Teresa Aguilera, 33, and the other woman's fetus.

Aguilera and Leticia Villagomez, 35, were crossing busy Maclay Avenue at Lucas Street about 7:30 p.m. when they were hit by a Dodge minivan and thrown several feet, police said.

The women, who authorities believe were related, and other relatives had arrived in San Fernando from Fresno a month ago, according to police.

The fatal collision occurred about two blocks from the family's home.

"This is a real tragedy," Police Chief Anthony Alba said. "We caution people that are crossing the road not to assume that because they're in a crosswalk, that's going to provide them protection."

A witness told officers the minivan was traveling 35 to 40 mph in the 35-mph zone.

"We do not consider that to be speeding," Det. Adrian Flores said.

Apparently the driver "didn't see them in time," Flores said, adding that she "hasn't given any specific statement" about whether she was distracted by something.

Officers detected no signs of alcohol or drug use and did not administer a field sobriety test, he said.

Investigators have not ruled out seeking manslaughter charges in the deaths of both Aguilera and Villagomez's 6-month-term fetus, Alba said.

"It's a possibility," he said. "We haven't yet determined whether there was any criminal act."

Jonathan Wilson, assistant manager of Cassell's Music, which faces the accident site, said the crosswalk is difficult for motorists to see "until you're right on top of it."

"I've personally stood between these two lines and nobody would stop," he said, adding that he would like to see flashing lights or large warning signs installed. "Even if they've got to make it look like Vegas, I don't care. They have to make it obvious that there's a crosswalk here."

City officials could not be reached for comment on the safety issue.

Alba said he has been with the city only since May and does not know whether it's a problem corner, but he noted that state law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians.

"Engineering for traffic safety can never ensure that accidents won't happen," he said.

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