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Husband, wife killed in pursuit crash

April 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two people are dead after a traffic accident involving a La Habra police officer who was headed to the scene of a chase involving a parolee.La Habra police said the patrol car had lights and sirens on when the crash happened at the intersection of La Habra Boulevard and Euclid Street on Sunday at about 5 p.m.

Authorities say the officer was responding to a call to help other officers in pursuit of a parolee on foot when the police car collided with a PT Cruiser. The PT Cruiser flipped and landed on its roof.

"I saw a person in there. Somebody was screaming. They were saying that there was a lot of blood, and nobody was moving," said witness Mike Frenas, a La Mirada resident.

The police car was traveling northbound on Euclid, and the PT Cruiser was traveling eastbound on La Habra.

A 54-year-old Susanne Marie Antuna, known to friends as Lulu, died at the scene, while her husband, identified as 55-year-old Charles Anthony Antuna, was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. He died at 2:37 a.m. from his injuries, including massive head trauma.

Authorities say they do not believe the Antunas were wearing seat belts.

The Antunas were reportedly on their way to see their 10-year-old daughter sing at a church recital. They leave behind four children and seven grandchildren.

"My dad, he was such a hard worker, so kind, so loving. He was never angry, never mad, always smiling," said the Antunas' daughter Andrea.

"They were the backbone of everything. I don't know what we're going to do without them," she said.

The officer was also taken to the hospital for soft tissue injuries. She is expected to be released Monday evening.

The California Highway Patrol is handling the investigation. The name of the police officer has not been released.

The parolee that other officers were chasing, 27-year-old Roary Gorbea, was holed up in an apartment. Police thought Gorbea was armed, and a standoff ended when a SWAT team was called in. He was taken into custody peacefully.

Officials say Gorbea is now facing murder charges in connection with the deaths.

"His actions precipitated the accident occurring. The officer would not have been responding code 3 for assistance if his actions had not merited that," said Cindy Knapp, a spokesperson for La Habra Police.

Although police said the officer had her lights and sirens on at the time of the collision, some witnesses disagree.

"I probably looked over 2 seconds after it happened and there were no lights on her car at all, none," said one witness.

Family members had believed their father was left in the wreckage for about three hours before he was transported to hospital, while the officer was rushed to the hospital right away. However, L.A. County Fire says the man was transported to the hospital within 20 minutes. Officials say it may have taken three hours for the coroner to arrive at the scene for the woman.

Eyewitness News reporters Eileen Frere and Amy Powell contributed to this report.


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