Racing leads to deaths // Illegal street race turns deadly when Mustang crashes into van

Source: Orange County Register


Date: 2001/11/29

The dangers of illegal street racing hit home Monday in a fiery crash that killed two men after they were struck by a Mustang that police say was racing with another Mustang on Del Obispo Street.

Local students said street racing is more common than people know.

``It's stupid. Why would you need to prove yourself because your car can go faster than some one else's?'' said Dana Hills High School student Lindsey Mazurek, 15, of Laguna Niguel.

The crash killed Raymond Scott Shelly of San Clemente and Jose Valverde of Dana Point. Authorities did not release names, but family members confirmed the identities.

``He was the kindest man I knew -- always going out of his way for everyone else,'' said Jeanne Bridges, 60, of San Clemente, mother of Shelly.

A green Dodge Caravan was propelled 120 feet and set ablaze after being hit by a yellow Mustang street racing with a black Mustang on Del Obispo, police said. Bridges said the van was Shelly's.

Dana Point resident Richard Dietmeier, who lives a quarter mile from the site, said he's not surprised about the accident.

``Excessive speed has been a long time problem on Del Obispo,'' the 10-year resident said. ``I've been fearing we'd have fatalities on this street.''

San Clemente High graduate Erin Gormley, 18, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, police said. She was released on $50,000 bail Tuesday after a night at the Orange County Women's Jail.

Gormley and a 17-year-old female passenger in a yellow Mustang convertible were street racing with a black Mustang about 9:40 p.m. on Del Obispo Street, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

As they rounded a curb near Quail Run, the minivan pulled out and Gormley struck the van on the passenger's side, Amormino said. The impact flipped the van onto its right side, where it caught fire. Neighbors tried to help the men escape but were beaten back by the flames. The two men died at the scene.

Gormley and her passenger were treated and released for moderate injuries at Mission Hospital, including a fractured foot Gormley suffered during the crash.

Gormley's family declined to comment.

Amormino said police are searching for the black Mustang, which sped off after the crash.

The street racing accident follows the death of 16-year-old Steven Katzenberger, killed in September when his Mitsubishi Eclipse slammed into a tree on Camino Del Avion in Laguna Niguel.

Amormino said that it's unusual that a female driver was involved in a practice that usually attracts young men.

The problem, authorities say, is that street racing is glamorized by everything from last summer's release of the movie ``The Fast and the Furious'' to car clubs centered around tricked up sub-compact import cars made to be lighter, faster and visually attractive.

Professional racecar driver/instructor Carl McGinn, of Driving Concepts International in Monarch Beach, who teaches teens safety and defensive driving, said that most people don't have the skill to deal with high speed driving.

``It's one of those issues when you get alcohol involved, kids are more inclined to be competitive, and when you have two cars of the same make, they become more competitive,'' he said. ``Ninety-five percent of drivers don't have the skill set to necessary to get them out of trouble.''

Late into the evening Tuesday, well wishers and mourners stopped by the crash site bringing flowers, candles -- some to say a prayer. Bridges, who said she was informed of her son's death Tuesday morning, brought a candle and cross.

``I want to put these things up to warn other drivers that are trying to drag down the street,'' she said. ``Maybe it might make people stop and think before they do any more of this craziness.''

Bridges said that Shelly is the third son that she's lost.

Her 5-year-old and an infant son died years ago. She said that Shelly was named after his grandfather -- who was killed by a drunk driver.

She said that Shelly came by the restaurant where she works -- Tommy's in San Clemente -- Monday night. She said he told her he was going to pick up Valverde and go riding around for a while. Shelly worked as a maintenance manager and spent his free time tutoring children. He was single and had no children. He was a talented sous chef, she said, who aspired to work on a cruise ship. He had just obtained his passport.

Jenny Valverde, 19, daughter of Jose Valverde, said she awoke Tuesday morning to the news of his death. She said he is also survived by his wife Hildi, and son Nick, 16. The family was too distraught to comment.


Driver charged in racing deaths

Source: Orange County Register


Date: 2001/12/25

Erin Gormley, 18, of San Clemente was charged Monday with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of felony drunken driving for a Nov. 26 accident that left two men dead, officials said.

Gormley was allegedly street racing in her yellow Mustang on Del Obispo Street in Dana Point when she hit a van carrying Raymond Scott Shelly of San Clemente and Jose Valverde of Dana Point. The two men were unable to escape from the van before it burst into flames.

If convicted, Gormley faces up to eight years in state prison for the vehicular-manslaughter charge, officials said.

Her arraignment is set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Harbor Justice Center, Laguna Niguel.


Erin Gormley, 18, is accused of killing two people while street racing. She remains free on bail.

Source: Orange County Register
Date: 2001/12/27

LAGUNA NIGUEL -- In her first court appearance since the Nov. 26 traffic collision in which she is accused of killing two people, Erin Gormley sat next to her father, holding his hand and quietly sobbing.

The 18-year-old graduate of San Clemente High School is charged with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of driving while under the influence.

On Wednesday at Harbor Justice Center, Superior Court Judge Carl Biggs continued Gormley's arraignment to Jan. 8 at 9 a.m. He also postponed a decision on increasing Gormley's bail to $100,000 from $10,000, as requested by the District Attorney's Office. The case was continued because the attorney representing Gormley could not be in court.

Gormley, who remains free on the original $10,000 bond, is accused of killing Raymond Scott Shelly, 40, of San Clemente and Jose Valverde, 46, of Dana Point when the yellow Ford Mustang she is alleged to have been street racing on Del Obispo Street in Dana Point struck Shelly's van, authorities said. The van overturned and burst into flames, trapping Shelly and Valverde inside. According to authorities, Gormley was allegedly racing against a black Mustang that fled the scene.

The judge placed several conditions on Gormley until her next court date, including not being allowed to drive and keeping a 10 p.m. curfew.

Gormley declined to comment.

At one point, while waiting for the session to get under way, she shook her bowed head and said quietly, "I can't believe this is happening to me. I can't believe it."

Valverde's 19-year-old daughter, Jenny, said the family has been devastated by the loss.

"He's not going to see my brother graduate," she said. "He's not going to see me walk down the aisle. He's gone. My dad is gone."

Jeanne Bridges remembered her son, Raymond Shelley, a sous chef for 20 years, as someone who was always happy, friendly and willing to lend a hand. Christmas without him was awful, she said.

According to the DMV, during the past five years the number of people cited for engaging in speed contests has increased steadily statewide. In 2000, 5,709 people were cited. That jumped from 5,224 in 1999 and 4,089 in 1996.

Nine people have died in Orange County this year as a result of street racing.



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