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Man Killed in Plunge Off PCH

The Oxnard resident's van tumbles from a 100-foot cliff and lands upside down in the surf near Point Mugu.

October 19, 2003|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard man was killed Saturday morning after losing control of his van on a picturesque stretch of Pacific Coast Highway and plunging more than 100 feet over a rocky cliff into pounding surf.

Juan Torres, 33, was driving south on the highway near Sycamore Canyon Road, below Point Mugu, about 8:30 a.m. when he apparently hit a truck parked on the shoulder, the California Highway Patrol said. Torres' van then launched into the air and landed upside down in the water.

"This is a beautiful road and it's known for that, but you really need to pay attention, because it can be extremely dangerous if you don't," said Officer George Myers Jr.

The impact of the crash ripped off the front fender of the silver Ford Aerostar, crushed the roof into the passenger seats and sent the vehicle's contents spilling into the sea. An ice chest and other debris from the wreckage washed ashore about 100 feet away.

The cause of the crash remained under investigation but it does not appear that drugs and alcohol were factors. Myers said preliminary evidence showed that Torres took no evasive action -- such as swerving left -- after striking the truck. An autopsy was scheduled for today.

Torres' wife told authorities that her husband was on his way to a construction job at a house near Malibu. The couple have three children, authorities said.

The truck's owner, Tim Vallas of Oxnard, had been in the area bicycling. Shaken by the crash, he left the beach after talking to authorities.

"This is an extremely difficult situation, because you have jagged rocks along the coastline, a steep rugged cliff and a pounding surf of 4 to 5 feet," Ventura County Fire Battalion Chief Ted Smith said of the recovery effort.

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