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2 Teens Killed in Drag Race

The youths die after their car crashes into a pole in Sun Valley. A second driver is sought.

June 20, 2003|Hilda Munoz and Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writers

Two young men were killed Thursday while drag racing in Sun Valley, the second fatal accident involving street racers in Los Angeles County in two weeks.

The deaths occurred as the city anticipates a crackdown on drag racers. A new law, which goes into effect next month, will allow police to confiscate and sell cars involved in drag racing.

Thursday's crash occurred just after midnight when two teenagers in a car, racing against another vehicle on Glenoaks Boulevard, careened out of control, skidded across opposite lanes and crashed into a power pole, police said.

Authorities said Vahe Parseghian, the 19-year-old driver from Sunland, died at the scene and his passenger, Tadeh Badalian, 18, of Glendale, died at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley.

The other driver sped from the scene. Police said they expect to make an arrest soon.

On June 5, authorities said, a boy playing basketball in Bell Gardens on the eve of his 16th birthday was struck by a drag racer.

City officials have tried an assortment of tactics to stop drag racing. Those moves include installing speed bumps and prohibiting parking on streets popular with drag racers.

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to allow officers to permanently confiscate vehicles used in illegal street racing. The cars will be auctioned, and the proceeds deposited into the city's general fund.

Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Bureau, said he expects the forfeiture law to be an effective deterrent.

"The first time we're at a drag race, we're going to take those cars that they've paid $20,000 for and [have] put $40,000 of speed improvements into," he said. "I think all it's going to take is a couple of racers who have their cars forfeited and don't get them back."

Police now impound the cars, but owners can retrieve them by paying fines of $300 or more.

Also, spectators can be arrested on a misdemeanor, under a law passed by the City Council last year. Previously, spectators could only be cited.

A 22-year-old Encino man was the first to be convicted of knowingly watching an illegal drag race. He was sentenced last month to 18 months' probation and 10 days of Caltrans service, fined $300 and barred from street races.

"The rush is not only drag racing against the person next to you, but having hundreds of people watch," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who proposed the forfeiture law with Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo.

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