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Venice boardwalk: L.A. councilman proposes more barriers after crash

August 04, 2013|By David Zahniser

Responding to Saturday’s deadly hit-and-run crash that left one person dead and 11 injured, Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin said Sunday he will push for new measures to keep cars away from pedestrians on the Venice boardwalk.

Bonin, who spent three hours at the accident site Saturday evening, said he wants to see temporary barriers installed in the next two weeks to isolate non-emergency vehicles from those who are walking the boardwalk. The councilman, who represents Venice and other coastal neighborhoods, said he wants bollards -- pier-like barriers made of concrete or steel -- installed strategically at roughly a dozen locations where streets deliver cars to Ocean Front Walk.

"Everybody down there last night -- LAPD, the LA [Fire Department] -- all agreed that it's something that needs to be done," said Bonin. "We want something temporary as quickly as possible. Something more permanent may take a little bit longer. I certainly want a plan in place within a couple weeks."

PHOTOS: Venice boardwalk crash

Bonin said he had already discussed the proposal with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who promised to free up the funds to put the plan into place. Police told Bonin that even before Saturday's incident, tourists -- many of them in rental cars and unfamiliar with the area -- regularly drive onto the boardwalk thinking they are entering a street.

"It happens they say easily a dozen times a day, sometimes 20 times a day," said Bonin, who took office July 1. "Usually it's people who are lost and wandering so they're going very slowly. But yesterday was an incident where someone was going very fast and very aggressively, and clearly acting with the intention to harm or kill."

Bonin said he also wants the city to install more directional signs for drivers and put in place a loudspeaker system that would allow public safety officials to inform the public of what to do if crowds need to be evacuated.

The mechanics of adding additional barriers could be complicated. In some locations, Bonin said, cars need to cross Ocean Front Walk to reach public parking lots west of the boardwalk. On Dudley Avenue, where barriers already exist, the suspected hit-and-run driver simply drove around them, he said.

Bonin plans to introduce a motion seeking the new barriers on Tuesday during the council's next scheduled meeting. The councilman has also contacted officials in Santa Monica to discuss the steps they took to install barriers at an outdoor farmer's market, after a man in a car killed 10 pedestrians there.

"I have no attachment to a particular style, design or technology," he said. "It's whatever works best."

On Sunday, police announced the arrest of Nathan Campbell, 38, who was booked on suspicion of murder in connection with the Venice crash. Campbell, who turned himself in to police after the crash Saturday night, is being held on $1-million bail.

Police investigators are still trying to determine a motive behind the deadly crash. Witnesses told police that it looked as if the driver was deliberately trying to hit people.

The deceased victim was identified Sunday morning as Alice Gruppioni, 32, who was on her honeymoon from Bologna, Italy, police and fire officials said.

Several videos have emerged showing the crash. One of the videos showed a dark black sedan plowing into people on the boardwalk. Another video captured the chaotic scene after the crash.

Witnesses said they believed the driver was traveling about 60 mph — others cited slower speeds — when the crash occurred about 6 p.m. Saturday near the boardwalk's intersection with Dudley Avenue, just before the sun began to set on the tourist haven. Witnesses said "scores of people" were walking along the beach at the time.

Daniel Regidor, 50, who was running nearby when the crash occurred, described the chaotic scene.

"People screaming, running. I was half a mile from the scene, but you could see just this mass of people trying to get out of the way.... It was horrible,” he said. "I saw somebody flying up in the air. When I came upon the scene, there were a bunch of people on the ground, bloodied."

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