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Street Racer Plows Into Car Head-On, Killing Woman, 74

May 02, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

A high-speed race on a busy Santa Ana thoroughfare Thursday afternoon led to the death of a 74-year-old woman who police said was doing nothing more than "minding her own business."

Santa Ana police said they're not sure exactly where the race started or why. But several witnesses told authorities a red Honda and yellow Ford Mustang were racing northbound on six-lane Bristol Street, weaving recklessly in and out of traffic.

Then, just south of Central Avenue at about 1 p.m., the Ford swerved into oncoming traffic, crashing head-on into a Volkswagen driven by Margaret Leyva, 74, of Huntington Beach, Santa Ana Police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva said.

The impact was so great that both vehicles spun in midair. The Volkswagen smashed into a light pole. Emergency crews used the Jaws of Life to extricate the woman, who died at the scene.

"This is the final outcome: An innocent, uninvolved party ends up getting killed," De La Riva said. "This is an unfortunate byproduct of illegal street racing."

The driver of the Ford -- Julio Enrique Trujillo, 25, of Santa Ana -- was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter. He suffered several fractures and was taken to a hospital. The driver of the other car fled.

Trujillo had been cited for driving in excess of 100 mph by the California Highway Patrol in December, police said.

Witness Alicia Chavez, 21, and her friends were returning to work after lunch. They were southbound in front of the Volkswagen in the middle lane.

"I saw him swerve out into the yellow [median]," Chavez said. "He was going at least 80 or 90. They just plowed into each other. She probably wasn't even able to think, it hit her so fast."

Chavez said she heard loud screeches and a horrific crash. She and her friends called 911, then watched as other passersby tried to help.

Chavez said Leyva took a deep breath, then dropped her head.

"Five seconds later, and it could have been us," a shaken Chavez said. "There was a bag of Taco Bell on the sidewalk. I think that might have flown out of her car."

Police are searching for the driver of the other car, believed to be a red Honda, but had little to go on. While the red car sped away, De La Riva said the attention of most witnesses was focused on the crash, which left the Ford and Volkswagen crushed heaps.

Police cordoned off a section of Bristol Street as investigators from the department's Major Traffic Collision Investigation Team measured skid marks and scanned the street for clues.

On Thursday evening, investigators had not yet interviewed Trujillo.

Street races are not uncommon, though De La Riva said Bristol Street is not considered a problem area. Most races take place in secluded areas and at night. Thursday's crash occurred on one of the city's busiest streets in the middle of the day.

"Sometimes these races occur at the spur of the moment," De La Riva said.

"Two people come up to a red light, look at each other and the race is on.... We're actually fortunate that nobody else was injured, maybe killed in this accident -- just based on the number of drivers that use this street."

Anyone with information about the incident or the red Honda is asked to call police at (714) 834-4211.

Times staff writer Zeke Minaya contributed to this report.

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