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Claim is filed over death of sunbather

Report details injuries of woman run over by Oxnard police SUV. Her family seeks $10 million.

October 26, 2006|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

A woman run over by an Oxnard police beach patrol while sunbathing didn't immediately die despite multiple fractures to her chest and skull, according to a coroner's report made public Wednesday.

Cindy Conolly, 49, was moving and was attempting to breathe when a swimmer came to her aid within minutes of being run over by the Chevy Tahoe SUV on June 12, the report said.

Despite frenzied efforts by the swimmer and other beachgoers, Conolly died from blunt force head and chest injuries within 15 minutes, the report said.

The document accompanied a $10-million legal claim filed by Conolly's family Wednesday. A precursor to a civil lawsuit, the claim alleges that the city negligently allowed two police officers to patrol Mandalay Beach in an SUV without providing specialized training.

It also contends that the city failed to have a beach driving policy in effect that might have prevented the accident. Such policies have been implemented in other coastal cities, including Los Angeles and Miami Beach.

The claim was filed by Oxnard attorney Mark Hiepler on behalf of Conolly's two adult children, Tammie Krieger and Ronnie Bassett, both of Minnesota.

Their mother lived in Iowa and had traveled to Oxnard to attend Bassett's wedding, which took place at a nearby beach resort a day before the accident.

In the early afternoon of June 12, Conolly was sunbathing alone near the shoreline when the police SUV ran over her, witnesses told authorities.

Senior Officer Frank Brisslinger, who was driving, and his passenger, Officer Martin Polo, told investigators they were not aware of what happened until they were summoned back to the scene 20 minutes later by a 911 call, the coroner's report said.

Four months later, Bassett and his sister were still waiting for the city to release its account of the accident, Bassett said in a prepared statement.

"I need an explanation of how these two men could not have seen my mother, lying in a bright blue swimming suit, on the beach right in front of their SUV," he said.

Oxnard police officials did not immediately return phone calls. The Ventura County medical examiner-coroner's office ruled the death an accident.

In its death investigation report, a deputy medical examiner provides details of what occurred in the minutes after witnesses realized that Conolly had been struck.

The swimmer, Michael Arthur, told an investigator that he watched in horror as the 6,500-pound SUV rolled slowly across the sand down a slope without stopping.

Arthur said he tried to flag down the officers down and when that failed, he ran and asked another beachgoer, Doug Kirk, to call 911. When he reached Conolly, Arthur said, she had pulled herself into a kneeling position and was trying to breathe.

Kirk told the investigator that he repositioned Conolly in an attempt to keep her airway open and stayed with her until paramedics arrived.

In their claim, Bassett and his sister allege that their mother was run over twice, first with the left front tire and then with the left rear tire. She suffered 13 broken ribs and two skull fractures, the claim alleges.

In his statement, Bassett said he and his sister have suffered greatly as a result of their mother's death. In addition to monetary damages, they are asking the city to adopt beach-driving policies that will make patrols safer.

"We do not want another adult or child to be injured or killed on a beach in Oxnard, Calif., or anywhere in the United States," Bassett said.

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