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The Region

2 Killed, 1 Gravely Injured in Moreno Valley Freeway Crash

Van carrying disabled adults in Beaumont hits a car, which had crossed the median to avoid another vehicle.

April 23, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A van carrying developmentally disabled adults slammed into a Honda Accord on the Moreno Valley Freeway in Beaumont on Thursday morning, killing one of the van's passengers and the Honda's driver.

Eric Bernard, 39, a passenger in the van, was airlifted to Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley with major head injuries; he remains in grave condition, officials said.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the accident happened at 8:39 a.m. when the driver of a Mercedes-Benz made an unsafe lane change, pulling out of slowing traffic in one of the westbound lanes into the fast lane, surprising the Honda driver.

The Accord's driver, a 20-year-old woman from Banning, swerved across the median into the eastbound lanes of the 60 Freeway and into the path of the Ford van, which was traveling near the 65-mph speed limit, a CHP spokesman said.

At that spot on the freeway, near its junction with the San Bernardino Freeway, there are no guardrails or concrete dividers separating the eastbound and westbound lanes.

Andrea Venute, the woman driving the Honda, and Eileen Kilgo, 41, who was seated behind the driver of the van, were declared dead at the scene with major internal injuries.

"There was no reaction time allowed for the van's driver to respond," CHP spokesman Chris Blondon said.

Blondon said the Mercedes' driver -- Sofia Glentis, 68, of Palm Desert -- was not ticketed but remains a focus of the accident's investigation.

Two other passengers from the van remain hospitalized at Riverside County Regional Medical Center.

Connie Lehman, 66, of Moreno Valley was in stable condition after suffering a broken leg, and Donna Westburg, 53, was in guarded condition with unspecified injuries.

Richard Jaraba, 35, of Cabazon, the van's driver, was treated for a minor injury and released, as were his remaining four passengers.

The van's passengers are patients of Developmental Client Care Industries in Moreno Valley and were en route to an adult rehabilitation facility in Banning, Blondon said.

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