Cars and other vehicles were zipping along the intersection of Glenoaks Boulevard and Maclay Avenue in the City of San Fernando on Tuesday, Oct. 19, perhaps oblivious to a fatal accident that occurred there two days ago, perhaps too much in a rush to notice the street memorial set up for a young teen who lost his life.
But the handmade memorial on Glenoaks Boulevard, just past a 7-11 store, had more than two dozen candles in glasses — some of them lit — along with flowers and a couple of balloons saying, “You’re Special” — surrounding the base of a tree. What was not there was the name or a photo of the deceased.
That tree, on the eastbound side of Glenoaks Boulevard and south of Maclay Avenue, is where a Mercedes Benz crashed in the early morning hours on Sunday, a one-vehicle accident that killed the 14-year-old passenger and seriously injured the driver. The vehicle was left a mangled mess from the collision.
San Fernando Police Department detectives, who are investigating the accident, continue to sort through evidence and speak with witnesses. So far the SFPD has released few details of the accident; a department spokesman said that because the investigation is ongoing and there are no charges filed presently, the police declined to reveal the identities of either one at this time.
San Fernando Police Chief Tony Vario told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper on Sunday that the skid marks and witness accounts indicated speeding was involved, and the driver did not test positive for alcohol or drugs.
But now, with the investigation in the hands of department detectives, Vairo revised his initial remarks in a followup interview.
“The accident is still under investigation — what caused it,” Vairo said. “It will take a while.”
“There was some evidence at the scene. But we’ll have to wait on returns from the lab regarding alcohol or drugs [being involved or factors]. We drew blood. It appears that speed [is a factor], but we don’t know if it’s a contributing factor or the main factor.”
The chief said the department received a call about an accident at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. According to investigators at the scene, a Mercedes Benz was traveling eastbound on Glenoaks Boulevard when it collided with a tree.
Vairo said the driver sustained serious injuries, including a fractured leg and dislocated knee, and was transported to a hospital and underwent surgery. The passenger would succumb to injuries received from the collision several hours later, and the family was notified by the coroner’s office, Vairo said.
Blood was drawn from the driver at the accident scene for laboratory tests to determine whether alcohol or drugs may have been a factor, but Vario said investigators had not yet received the results of those tests.
Readers expressed their concerns this week on the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol’s Facebook page.
“This is nothing NEW, they always drive so fast…like if it is a freeway they don’t even stop on the stop signs,” wrote San Fernando resident Gustavo Gamez. “Just goes to show the police don’t look into fast car racing on this street; the other day there was a crash on Maclay and Hollister, some lady didn’t make a full stop and hit another car.”
Another reader, Covarrubias M. Maria, wrote, “I don’t know what is going on in Sylmar and San Fernando, we are having so many accidents everyday. Our young people need to understand that a CAR and Speeding don’t mix. This makes me so sad…two [lives] ruined. RIP. SLOW DOWN PLEASE.”
Vairo reiterated that no criminal charges of any kind have been filed.
“Our first priority (at the scene) was getting medical attention to those injured. Our second priority is to figure out what happened,” the chief said. “Is it a fluke accident or were there other factors involved? Could there have been another vehicle involved we don’t know about yet?
“We’re looking for any surveillance video taken in the area. We’re trying to get as complete a picture of what happened before we make a determination of what occurred.”
Speeding has been an ongoing problem on Maclay Avenue. City officials, despite the public’s disapproval, have put in street medians and large clay pots at the corners where pedestrian’s cross streets in an effort to slow down traffic.
City officials have, on occasion, dramatically reduced speed limits on designated streets, at one time posting a 10 miles per hour limit on Maclay Avenue near the Library Plaza before eventually going back to the present 25 miles per hour limit.
Vairo said that Glenoaks has had speeding issues in the past. “But any major throughway in any city will have speed as an issue. I think the city has done the best it can at trying to reduce that; They do different things to reduce or minimize speed. But when it’s two or three o’clock in the morning, and there’s no traffic around…people tend to go faster than the speed limit — which is unfortunate.”
The posted speed limit for Glenoaks Boulevard is 40 miles per hour, according San Fernando Public Works Director Matt Baumgardner.
“Glenoaks is an arterial road; a main road connecting Sylmar, Pacoima and parts of LA,” Baumgardner said. “It’s an exit off of a freeway. And as a larger street, you would not be able to move traffic along [too slowly] — the volume of traffic wouldn’t allow it. So you do have to move traffic along in a reasonable manner.”
“But 40-45 miles per hour” speed limits are typical for streets like Glenoaks, Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner said the city is currently involved in traffic studies on its streets, which are mandated by law every seven to 10 years. City engineers review traffic volume and collision history, and turn their findings over to the City Council, which decides if changes are necessary.
If the collected data suggest no changes are needed or recommended for the streets in the seven-year study, Baumgardner said, the speed limits and other street conditions can remain the same for another three years. But all streets that are in their 10th year since their last evaluation must undergo a completely new study.
Baumgardner said Glenoaks has undergone a fully updated review since major improvements were recently made to the roadway. At this time he didn’t know if Sunday’s accident could be included in the street’s collision history since it is unknown if the investigation will be completed when the data must be finalized.
The engineers must finalize the data by early November, and present their findings to the council in December, Baumgardner said.