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Community outraged over Foothill crash

April 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some in La Canada-Flintridge are blaming state officials for Wednesday's crash. Residents say the crash was preventable. State officials joined local demands for action at the intersection that has a dangerous history.Sad and angry, the community of La Canada-Flintridge gathered Thursday night to mourn the loss of two people killed in what has now become an infamous intersection.

The La Canada Valley Sun newspaper has documented about 10 different crashes in the same intersection, dating back to 1951. All of them involved a truck losing control at the bottom of the highway.

City and county leaders say they've been asking Caltrans to make the highway safer since last fall. Caltrans officials say they're working on it.

The driver of the runaway truck, 43-year-old Marcos Costa, has been arrested for suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter and felony reckless driving. He is expected to be arraigned in court Friday.

The big rig truck was coming down Angeles Crest Highway when the driver lost control and crashed through the Foothill Boulevard intersection. The truck struck five vehicles before it barreled into the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Two people inside a red sedan that was hit died at the scene. They have been identified as 58-year-old Angel Jorge Posca and his 12-year-old daughter Angelina Posca, both of Palmdale.

Twelve others were injured in the crash, three of them critically. No one inside the bookstore was hurt, and the truck driver suffered only minor injuries, according to the county fire department.

The Poscas were on their way back from Angel Jorge's dental lab in Long Beach, and were taking Route 2 to avoid traffic.

Family members say the father and daughter were very close. She was on spring break this week and she had wanted to spend more time with her dad. They say she was a very outgoing student that was involved in a number of activities, including ballroom dancing, cheerleading, and gymnastics.

It's unclear what caused the truck driver to lose control, but apparently he could not negotiate a right-angle turn at the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway.

Witnesses say he appeared to be going too fast, and he might have had brake failure. They say the trucks tires were screeching as it slammed into the other cars.

"He hit the curb, the car, the whole entire big rig went airborne," said Melissa Watkins, who witnessed the crash. "It went through the roof, through everything, and we all just saw it coming and heard it and just ran."

Sheriff's investigators say Costa traveled Angeles Forest Highway, which bans trucks, in order to connect to the Angeles Crest Highway. It's unclear whether or not he had taken that route before or if he was relying on GPS.

Last September, another truck lost control and hit parked cars at the Hill Street Café. The city sent a letter to Caltrans urging the state to post signs warning trucks about the steep slope and to install an escape lane for runaway trucks.

In a letter sent back in January, the state said it was still studying how to make the Angeles Crest Highway safer. Since then nothing has happened.

"We are outraged frankly that bureaucratic indifference on the part of Caltrans has caused another accident and this horrendous tragedy in our community," said La Canada-Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso.

Four weeks ago, the city urged Caltrans to ban all trucks on the windy mountain road.

"If you have a trucker from out of town and they are guiding themselves by GPS there is no marking that shows that this is an inappropriate road for a truck," said Olhasso.

Caltrans has considered marking the gravel-covered center median as a runway truck lane. The city doesn't like the idea, saying it's too close to a populated area. But some residents say it's better than nothing at all.

"When I drive here I look in my rearview mirror when I come down Angeles Crest just because there have been accidents recently," said Martha Burns, a La Canada resident. "I think the medians farther up should have signs."

"It's fallen upon deaf ears, you know. Maybe it took something like this to make the radical changes that need to be made," said resident Mike Totta. "It's unfortunate that people have to lose lives before they take it, you know, seriously."

Eyewitness News Reporters Melissa MacBride, Sid Garcia and Miriam Hernandez contributed to this report.


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