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Boy's family sues driver

The motorist in a crash at an O.C. bus stop faces wrongful-death litigation. Survivors also file a $15-million claim against the county.

December 05, 2006|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

The family of Juan Rojas, the 7-year-old killed at an Orange County bus stop last week when a driver allegedly lost control of his SUV while reaching for a cellphone, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against the motorist.

The family also filed a $15-million claim against the public agencies in charge of the design and placement of the bus stop. Claims are typically forerunners to lawsuits.

William Splitter, 71, of Huntington Beach drove in a "negligent and reckless" manner Wednesday, killing Juan and injuring his mother and two sisters, the lawsuit says.

Splitter could not be reached for comment.

Eugenia Rojas, 33, of Garden Grove was waiting for a bus with her three children near Garden Grove Boulevard and Edwards Street in Westminster when they were hit.

She and the girls were injured.

Rojas is in serious condition at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange with a ruptured spleen, bruised lung, broken ribs and a broken pelvis, authorities said.

The boy's sister Jacqueline, 13, who had tried to lift the vehicle off her brother, has been released from a hospital. Vanessa, 10, was hurt slightly.

Manuel Rojas, who was working at the time of the accident, has said the death of his son and the injuries to his wife and daughters have been traumatic and that he wants criminal charges brought against Splitter.

Federico Sayre, the Santa Ana attorney representing the family, filed a claim against the county and the Orange County Transportation Authority for the allegedly negligent design and unsafe placement of the bus stop.

OCTA, which has not yet received a copy of the claim, believes the bus stop was safe and that its placement did not contribute to the accident, said Ted Nguyen, an OCTA spokesman.

Westminster police expect its investigation into the accident to be completed next week, a spokesman said.

Police said Splitter told them he was trying to make a right turn when he reached down for a cellphone and lost control of his car.

A state law making it illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving except in an emergency doesn't take effect until July 2008.

The investigation will be referred to the district attorney's office to determine whether charges should be filed.

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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