Woman, 74, killed by apparent street racer

Source: OC Register
Date: 2003/5/2

Santa Ana, CA - Woman, 74, killed by apparent street racer

SANTA ANA Margaret Leyva was returning from a lunch break Thursday afternoon at the wheel of her 1998 Volkswagen Golf when a speeding Mustang crossed the center line of Bristol Street and sent her car spinning into a light pole.

The 74-year-old counselor from Huntington Beach was killed instantly.

The Mustang's driver lifted himself out of a car window despite several bone fractures, but was detained by a crowd of irate onlookers who held him for police.

Julio Enrique Trujillo, 25, of Santa Ana had been street racing, officers said later, driving 80 to 90 mph in a contest with a red Honda that promptly disappeared.

"If it occurred as a result of street racing, it was senseless, and all it did was cause our family a lot of grief," said Leyva's nephew, Emmanuel Hernandez. "She wasn't doing anything wrong. She's 74. What is she going to do?"

Witnesses said Leyva was driving about 35 mph and barely had a second to react to the fast-approaching Mustang.

The collision occurred shortly after 1 p.m., closing down a section of Bristol Street for several hours while dozens of onlookers watched the aftermath.

The two cars sat in the middle of the road, with fenders and chunks of metal flung all over the street.

"When we ran up here, we were shaking," said Luis Delgadillo, 21, who was one of the first on the scene and called 911. "We're still a little bit shaky. I can't believe we saw that."

Delgadillo was a passenger in a car with two co-workers going south on Bristol when he spotted the yellow Mustang and another car racing toward them at about 80 to 90 mph. The speed limit on Bristol is 40 mph.

"He was going so fast, we knew he was going to hit someone," said Sheela Abdi, 23, who was riding in the car with Delgadillo.

Trujillo was traveling in the middle lane when he switched to the far left lane to pass another car, Delgadillo said. As Trujillo approached a white van in front of him, he veered into the center turn lane, lost control and fishtailed into the oncoming Volkswagen.

"You heard brakes, glass breaking, the collision, everyone screaming," Abdi said. "She hit, she spun, she slid."

When they saw the collision through their rear window, they "immediately turned around and ran to the car," Abdi said.

The crash occurred right in front of the Orange County Coroner's Office and Coastal Communities Hospital.

Deputies and hospital workers ran out and tended to the victims.

"As soon as they said they couldn't feel a pulse, I said a little prayer for the lady," Delgadillo said. "And I thank God so much it wasn't us."

Witnesses held Trujillo to the ground till police arrived. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, said police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva.

Police said they found a traffic citation issued to another person for driving more than 100 mph in the Mustang.

Authorities were also looking for the red Honda, the other vehicle suspected of taking part in the race.

Leyva's family gathered Thursday night and remembered her as a loving woman who was a great cook and a woman of God.

Leyva cared for others and continued to work full-time as a drug and alcohol counselor till her death, Hernandez said. Her husband had died in 1978, and she had three children.

"There's a time and a place for everything," Abdi said. "Go to some dirt road where there's no one and put some lights up (and race). Why put other people in harm?"

De La Riva said the race appeared to be a spur-of-the- moment challenge rather than a planned event.

"Usually pre-planned races occur in places that are not heavily populated," De La Riva said.

But Thursday's race was down a busy thoroughfare in the middle of the day.

Police agencies around the county have stepped up efforts to stamp out street racing, particularly after the release of the 2001 movie "The Fast and the Furious," which glamorized the dangerous activity.

Nine people died from street racing in 2001, four of them innocent bystanders, officials said. It's now down to about one or two deaths a year.

"And it seems to be the poor, innocent folks who end up dying," said Deputy District Attorney Colleen Crommett, who is prosecuting a high-profile street-racing suspect in an unrelated case.

In Orange, where the wide-open roads near Batavia Street and West Grove Street have long seduced racers, police have posted anti-racing messages on Web sites.

Some racers responded by calling the police names.

"They called me 'fascist,' or something like that," Sgt. Dave Hill said.

Once or twice a year, police in Orange will hear about some street racers congregating, and usually break up the get-togethers before things turn ugly, Hill said.

"Between the word getting out that the police will take enforcement action and tragic situations like the one we saw in Santa Ana, we hope street racing is on the decline," Hill said.




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