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Freak Accident Turns Joyous Family Surprise Into Tragedy

O.C. couple secretly planned to wed during her parents' visit. Now a funeral is pending after the bride-to-be's car ran over her.

September 06, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

It was supposed to be a surprise for their parents. Kaveh Ayria said he and his fiancee were secretly planning their wedding to coincide with her parents' visit from Iran.

Instead, it became a family tragedy.

Ayria and family members on Friday were mourning Maryam Amadi's death in a freak auto accident Thursday morning in Newport Beach and trying to comprehend their sudden loss.

"Maybe God needed her more than we did," said Ayria, 46, his eyes swollen with tears. "She was a wonderful woman. She changed my life."

Amadi was killed when her car slipped into reverse and ran her over about 7:45 a.m. Thursday, police said.

She had just dropped off Ayria at their home in the 2700 block of Hillside Drive, a lushly landscaped neighborhood atop a hill.

As Ayria walked toward the door, he realized that he didn't have the house keys. Amadi, waiting in the Honda Accord, parked the car, then got out and leaned into the back seat to look for the keys.

Inexplicably, the car rolled backward down the hill, dragging her about 25 feet. It jumped a curb before ramming a row of ferns and bushes in a neighbor's frontyard.

"Somehow, it must have slipped out of park or it was in neutral," Ayria said. "I turned around when I got to the front door and I couldn't believe that I saw her pinned underneath the tires on the driver's side."

Neighbor Cory Azzalino, 17, who was getting ready for school, ran outside when he heard the screams and noise.

"I heard a loud bang that sounded like a gunshot," said Azzalino, a student at Corona del Mar High School.

"I didn't know if it was a fight, so I waited about 10 seconds before running out- side."

Other neighbors ran down the street and helped Azzalino lift the car while Ayria pulled Amadi from underneath the left-front tire.

"I have no idea how something like this could happen," Ayria said.

"She's very careful. She doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and has never gotten a traffic ticket. I can't believe it."

Amadi was taken by helicopter to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, where she was pronounced dead about 1:30 p.m., said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Shulman.

An autopsy Friday determined that she died of blunt-force trauma, Orange County coroner's officials said.

Amadi was religious, praying five times a day, and enjoyed jogging, inline skating and tending to her garden, her fiance said.

She arrived from Iran in 1976 as an exchange student, then remained in the United States, earning bachelor's degrees in engineering and architecture and a master's degree in business administration.

Ayria, who runs his own international trade company, said he and Amadi, a saleswoman for MCI, met last year through friends.

They became engaged in June and bought their home last month.

The couple wanted to surprise their families with a small, simple ceremony that was still in the planning stages, Ayria said.

"She was easygoing," Ayria said. "As long as we were together, it didn't matter where the wedding was."

At a curbside memorial, steps from their two-story home, friends and neighbors placed roses, potted plants, candles and a blue feather in her memory.

"We are so sorry," read one card. "May this feather speed your way to heaven."

Services are pending at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach.

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