As LAPD detectives continue to investigate the traffic accident on Tuesday, Nov. 15, that killed a 15-year-old male student on a bicycle who was headed to class at the Vaughn International Studies Academy (VISA) in San Fernando, some parents are wondering if having a full-time crossing guard where the accident took place might have saved the youth’s life.
Police identified the victim as Saul Lopez, 15, of San Fernando, who was a 10th grader at VISA.
Lopez is the sixth person in the Valley to die this year in a collision with a car or truck while riding a bicycle, and the third in the Northeast Valley in a month, according to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
“To have three in a short period, and in the same general vicinity, is surprising,” said Colin Bogart, the Coalition’s education director.
One Vaughn parent, who asked not to be identified, said she belonged to a parent’s association at Vaughn, and that the association will again press for at least one more full-time crossing guard in the morning and afternoon as students arrive and depart the five campuses that serve grades pre-Kindergarten to 12.
The school currently has three full-time guards, according to the parent, who added she had seen a guard at times at the intersection of Glenoaks Boulevard and Vaughn Street. “But not all the time. And I don’t know if a guard was there this morning, although I didn’t see one” as she took her son to school, the parent said.
“[The association] will try to push for another crossing guard because we don’t want this to happen again,” the parent said. “The school has said because there are three for Vaughn already, the city (of Los Angeles) may not give us a fourth full-time guard.
“But sometimes the guard is at Glenoaks and Vaughn, where the accident happened. I don’t know if it would have made a difference. But why do we have a guard there sometimes, and sometimes we don’t?”
A gofundme.com page online, called “support for the Lopez family,” was established for Lopez by VISA instructor Jamie Dewaele.
“Today, we lost one of our students to a car accident while he was on his way to school. His name was Saul Lopez and he had many friends at our school. He was well-liked by everyone that knew him and one couldn’t help but smile when he walked into a room,” the page stated.
“The students and faculty at this school are heartbroken and we want to help the family of our fallen Tiger with funeral costs etc. We would like to present the family with the proceeds as soon as possible. Anything will help and will be enormously appreciated by Saul’s friends, classmates and teachers.”
The goal on the page was listed at $15,000. By Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 16, more than $25,000 had been raised from more than 700 donations.
“Our deepest condolences to Saul’s family,” Jimmy Gonzalez wrote on the page. “How amazing it is when a community comes together to help out in a time of need. Many blessings to you all. God is good.”
The accident occurred Tuesday morning at the Pacoima intersection of Glenoaks Boulevard and Vaughn Street.
According to the preliminary investigation, Bustos said, a 2016 Dodge Ram pickup traveling southbound on Glenoaks Boulevard collided with a 2006 Chevrolet pickup that was eastbound on Vaughn Street.
The impact sent both trucks in a southbound direction. The Dodge struck Lopez, who was riding westbound in the south crosswalk at the intersection, Bustos said. Lopez was pinned beneath the Dodge, Bustos said.
One of the trucks ran a red light, but it was unclear which truck had the right of way, Bustos said. He also said that both motorists stopped at the scene and cooperated with police. Neither was arrested.
Although he was eventually freed from being trapped under the truck paramedics said Lopez died at the accident scene, according to spokesman Brian Humphries of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Crisis counselors were brought in to assist those at the school, Bustos said. And students held a candlelight vigil at the school at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Mayra Fraire wrote on the gofundme page that her father was one of eight people at the scene who collectively tried to move the truck off of Lopez, but were unable to do so.
“My deepest condolences to the parents and his siblings. May God give them strength. It hurt me to know that such a young person who had just started living would go through this. Only God knows why He called him to Him.”