I’ve just gotten word from the LAPD that a bike rider was killed, and two others injured in a hit-and-run early this morning.
Or rather, the victim most likely died because the driver failed to stop at the scene as required by law and basic human decency.
According to the press release, 28-year old Los Angeles resident Ulises Melgar, 30-year old Mario Lopez of Bellflower and 21-year old Bell Flower resident Luis “Andy” Garcia were riding east on Cesar Chavez Avenue at Mission Road with two other bicyclists at approximately 2:45 am Saturday.
They were rear-ended by an eastbound 2013 Toyota Corolla driven by 21-year old Wendy Villegas, knocking all three off their bikes and into the street.
Villegas fled the scene, leaving her victims lying in the street. She drove to her home, where she told her parents she’d been in a collision, and asked them to call the police.
Unfortunately, it was too late.
Just moments after Villegas ran away, 21-year old Jimmy Marroquin was driving east on Cesar Chavez in a 1994 Nissan Quest. He didn’t see Garcia lying in the roadway and struck him with his SUV, dragging his body a short distance.
Had Villegas stayed at the scene, she could have directed other drivers around the people lying in the street until they could move or help could arrive. Ot at the very least, Marroquin would have been more likely to see the collision and drive more carefully around it.
Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. Whether he could have survived the initial collision if he hadn’t been struck a second time is a matter of speculation.
However, the other two victims only suffered minor injuries, which suggests that his injuries might have been survivable. Lopez was treated by paramedics at the scene, while Melgar was taken to the ER at USC Medical Center.
Meanwhile, Villegas confessed to police that she had been drinking and left the scene of the collision. She was booked for hit-and-run resulting in injury or death (CVC 20001(a)) and vehicular manslaughter while under the influence (Penal Code 191.5).
In other words, police investigators are blaming her for Garcia’s death.
The collision is still under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to contact Central Traffic Detective M. Kaden at (213) 972-1837 or Officer R. Cortez at (213) 972-1846; or call the Central Traffic Division’s Watch Commander at (213) 972-1853 during the weekend or off hours.
This is the 66th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 28th in Los Angeles County; that compares to 23 in the county for all of last year. It is also the 12th biking death in the City of Los Angeles, compared to five in each of the last year two years.
That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the city’s cycling death toll for 2011 and 2012, with over three months left in the year.
And horrifyingly, nine of those 12 deaths have been hit-and-runs.
My prayers and deepest sympathy for Luis “Andy” Garcia and his loved ones.
Thanks to LAPD Central Traffic bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor for the heads-up.
Update: There are a number of rumors swirling around this case. According to reports, instead of turning herself in, the second driver followed Villegas home and reported her to the police after watching her get out of the car stumbling drunk.
In a second version, there were three vehicles that hit Garcia; the third was reportedly a Metro van, or possibly an official Metro vehicle, which followed Villegas to her home after hitting Garcia.
After checking with the LAPD, both of those versions appear to be untrue. The only vehicles involved in the collision were those driven by Villegas, who fled the scene, and Marroquin, who stopped after hitting Garcia.
Marroquin did not follow Villegas to her home; if he had, he would have committed hit-and-run, regardless of his intentions in following her. And so far, there is no credible report that there was a Metro vehicle present at the time of the collision, let alone that it was involved in the wreck or that the driver tracked her to her home.
I’ve also been told that one of the victims suffered a broken back as a result of the collision, which I have been unable to confirm with the LAPD. They’re looking into it for me, but so far say both other victims suffered minor injuries.
In addition, reports are that it was actually Melgar who was treated and released at the scene, while Lopez was taken to the hospital; he’s the one who reportedly has a broken back.
There will be a memorial service for Andy Garcia Tuesday, September 17th.