Street-race tragedy: 
Fiery crash into trees kills two

Source: Union Tribune
Author: Ronald W. Powell
Date: 2000/08/25

San Diego, CA - Street-race tragedy: Fiery crash into trees kills two.

A young man and a young woman involved in a street race died in a fiery crash early yesterday when their car struck a tree-studded median on Sorrento Valley Road, San Diego police said.

The occupants of the 1997 Acura sedan were racing against another car when the driver apparently lost control and skidded into the small stand of conifer trees, police said. The vehicle struck one tree, slammed into a second, ripped into two parts, then burst into flames.

At least 12 people have died in the county this year while street racing.

The Medical Examiner's Office said the two died inside the burned vehicle.

Police said the accident was reported at 3:05 a.m. Medical examiner's personnel were attempting to confirm the identities of the crash victims through dental records.

Skid marks leading to the trees were visible yesterday afternoon, apparent evidence of the car's northbound sprint into the darkness. Shattered glass, sheared-off car parts and melted metal littered the area where the car came to rest. A black, oily substance coated the ground. The trunk and upper reaches of one tree were scorched.

A businessman whose office is located nearby in one of the many business parks that line Sorrento Valley Road said street racing takes place there most Friday and Saturday nights.

San Diego police have repeatedly made sweeps through the area, warning, ticketing drivers and otherwise discouraging the illegal competitions. However, the businessman described the mostly young racers as so addicted to the adrenaline rush of burning tire rubber and vehicular speed that they are contemptuous of danger.

"I've told them many times before to stop because they're just going to get hassled by the cops," said the man. "They say, 'We know, but we've got no place else to go.' I'll bet this stops them for a while."

He said sometimes as many as 200 cars descend on more than a one-mile stretch of Sorrento Valley Road, west of Interstate 5 and between Sorrento Valley Boulevard and Carmel Mountain Road. Some are occupied by participants, others by spectators.

"I give police a lot of credit for trying to stop it," he said. "But the kids are not going to stop."

The thrill of the illicit races were depicted in last year's box office hit "The Fast and the Furious." But street racing doesn't always have a movie's happy ending.

"They are young, dumb and feel invincible; they feel 'it won't happen to me,' " said San Diego police Officer Rich Vergara. "There are endless battles. You try to shut it down, but they move somewhere else. It's like (trying to stop) graffiti." Vergara said one deterrent may be to make supervised racing more available. Such races are sometimes held at the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot and at Carlsbad Raceway, where emergency medical personnel are on hand.



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