Fatal crash happened during race, police say

Source: LA Times
Author: Matthew Chin
Date: 2002/02/25

A San Dimas teenager is dead and the 20-year-old driver is hospitalized after car struck trees in Ontario.

ONTARIO -- The illegal street race in which a 17-year-old San Dimas girl died Saturday included more than two cars, police said.

Investigators suspect the crash that killed Korra Jean Colnot happened while several cars were jockeying for position in a small pack. Until Saturday, most of the attention was on two-car races, police said.

"I've never seen more than two cars racing at once here. This is a new one on me," Police Sgt. Linda Johnson said. Korra, who was a passenger, and her boyfriend Jerry Ortiz, 20, of San Dimas, were traveling in the pack in a 2001 Honda Accord about 2 a.m. Saturday, Police Det. Mike Macias said. The car belonged to Korra's mother, Denise.

Ortiz was in critical condition Sunday at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Macias said. Once the investigation is finished, police will present the evidence to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office to review for possible charges, Macias said.

The pack of cars was speeding southbound on South Vintage Avenue when Ortiz lost control of the car while trying to move up in the pack, Macias said. The racers ran a stop sign on East Francis Avenue just before the crash.

The Honda skidded from one side of the four-lane road to the other. It hit a curb and went airborne after hitting a tree. The car stopped after hitting another tree, Macias said.

Ortiz and Korra were wearing seat belts. Some of the other racers pulled the pair from the vehicle, Macias said.

Police estimated between 75 and 100 cars were at the race as either contestants or spectators.

Only a dozen remained at the scene when police arrived.

"We never get a lot of help, even though we know we have witnesses at these accidents," Macias said. "There's a code of silence, but as to what their loyalties are I don't know."

Korra's relatives said they were told by the couple's friends that they were not street racing, but were present at the races.

Colnot's brother, Kyle, a U.S. Army specialist stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, flew in and arrived at the family's San Dimas home Sunday morning. Funeral arrangements were still pending Sunday.

"I've been shaking since I heard," Kyle Colnot said.

Kyle Colnot was close to his younger sister and they spoke over the phone weekly since he enlisted two years ago, he said. He last saw her in September.

Korra and Ortiz had been together off and on for the last year and a half, but were serious for the last six months, said Korra's mother, Denise.

"I don't blame him," the mother said. "I know he wouldn't do anything to hurt Korra," Denise Colnot said.

Denise Colnot saw Ortiz in the hospital Sunday where she said he had faded in an out of consciousness several times.

Denise Colnot was at the hospital, but wasn't able to see her daughter, who was in surgery. Korra died about 4 a.m., the San Bernardino County coroner's office reported.

Denise Colnot wanted to see her daughter, but because of the condition of the body and Colnot's emotional state at the time, hospital staff initially said she couldn't. They ultimately relented, however.

"I felt her hands and her feet and her little nose and there was still something there," she said. "I touched her again and she had already gone cold."

Korra was taking independent study classes at Vista Alternative School in San Dimas. She was planning to take the GED exam to get her high school diploma, Denise Colnot said.

"She was always trying to make people happy," Denise Colnot said.

Ontario officials have taken several steps to stop illegal street racing in the city. The city has shut down certain roads, installed street risers and started arresting spectators as well as racers.

"I'm not sure what more we can do," Councilman Alan Wapner said. "I'm deeply saddened over this tragic event. I will certainly look to our police chief and city attorney to see if there's more we can do."

Two other people have been killed in street racing crashes in Ontario since 2000, Macias said.

Wapner suggested that since most of the racers come from areas outside Ontario and even the Inland Valley that perhaps city officials should seek more help from the state and San Bernardino County.

"It's a regional issue so we need a regional response," Wapner said. "Maybe we need some more legislation from the state or assistance with law enforcement. I don't know the answer. I wish I did. We keep saying, 'What's it going to take? Another kid killed?' And then another kid gets killed and this keeps happening anyway."



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