Fatal auto smashup in Oceanside blamed on street race

Source: Union Tribune
Author: Onell R. Soto
Date: 2002/03/17

OCEANSIDE A 22-year-old man who witnesses said was street racing on El Camino Real died when his car crashed into a palm tree and split into three pieces Friday night, police said yesterday.

Nam Nguyen of Oceanside was speeding north on El Camino Real about 9:20 p.m. when his Acura hit a curb, then the palm tree in the median north of Fire Mountain Drive, said Oceanside Police officer Brent Keys.

He died immediately, Keys said.

Witnesses told officers Nguyen was racing a dark Dodge Neon that had racing stripes from front to back. "That vehicle did not stop," Keys said.

Police are looking for that driver.

Nguyen was engaged to be married later this year to Samantha Leetien, with whom he had a 2-year-old son named Son, (a Vietnamese name pronounced Shawn in English).

"He was that person you could always rely on," Viet Nguyen said about his brother. "A really happy guy."

Nguyen said his brother wasn't part of the street-racing scene, but he wouldn't rule out that racing played a role in his death.

"He used to do it, not anymore," Nguyen said. "His car is more of a show car." The 1996 Acura Integra had its own bold paint job, as well as a custom audio system.

Nam Nguyen, a graduate of Vista High School, attended Palomar College and hoped to major in business, but was taking a semester off and was working at a car stereo shop, his brother said.

At the shop, Al & Ed's Auto Sound in Vista, Nguyen loved showing off and working on his car, said manager Gabriel Savalza.

"He was into his car, you know, making it fast," the manager said yesterday, holding back tears. "Too fast, I guess."

Together, the Nguyen brothers' names spelled out Vietnam, which their parents fled to find a new life in a tent city on Camp Pendleton in 1976. Both sons were born and raised in Oceanside.

In addition to his fiancee, son and his only brother, Nguyen is sur vived by his father Nghiep Nguyen and mother Khanh Tran.



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