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Crashes on Crest kill two

Fatalities occur on stretch of road opened less than two weeks ago.

June 15, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • A CalTrans truck passes by the road closure on Angeles Crest Highway in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
A CalTrans truck passes by the road closure on Angeles…

Two fatal crashes in a single day and four other wrecks last week on the recently reopened segment of Angeles Crest Highway above La Cañada Flintridge have prompted public safety officials to renew calls for slower, safer driving along the scenic mountain roadway.

On Friday — just one week after the highway’s June 3 reopening — Pasadena resident Julio Velasquez, 21, was killed shortly after 3 a.m. when he lost control of his car, careened into an embankment and collided with a tree while traveling toward La Cañada at a sharp bend roughly six miles above the Foothill (210) Freeway.

Later that same day, at about 4:30 p.m., a Monterey Park man in his 40s, also heading toward La Cañada, swerved off a straightaway less than two miles east of the previous crash, plunging nearly 700 feet down the mountainside.

The first driver is suspected of driving drunk. Investigators believe the second may have attempted suicide or suffered a sudden medical condition. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene, according to California Highway Patrol reports.

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Since June 5, there have been four other crashes — all involving single vehicles losing control, three of them resulting in driver injuries — on the seven-mile segment of highway between La Cañada Flintridge and Angeles Forest Highway that had been closed for repairs for nearly 17 months, Officer Chris Powell of the CHP’s Altadena Station confirmed.

This spate of traffic collisions has occurred despite significant efforts by the agency to saturate traffic patrols on Angeles Crest — especially on weekends, when it is most often crowded with cars and motorcycle riders.

“We have anywhere from two to four additional [patrol] units up there. We want to make sure people are driving more defensively — focus on the road and what’s ahead, stay in your lane and take turns at an appropriate speed,” CHP Officer Ming-Yang Hsu said of the effort, which is funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Hsu contends that heightened patrols have most people slowing down, saying most citations so far on Angeles Crest have resulted from equipment violations, such as for inoperable brake or tail lights.

Hsu emphasized that Friday’s two fatal crashes likely involved circumstances not typical to most drivers on Angeles Crest.

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