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Angels pitcher killed in Fullerton crash

April 9, 2009 8:08:24 AM PDT
It was a tragic loss for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after a rookie pitcher was killed in a violent collision in Fullerton, just hours after the best performance of his career. He was one of three people killed in a crash at an O.C. intersection Thursday.Authorities confirmed that one of the people killed was 22-year-old rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels game against Oakland on Thursday night was canceled due to the player's death.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nick's family, friends, loved ones, and fans," Angels General Manager Tony Reagins said.

Police said a red minivan ran a red light at the intersection of Orangethorpe and Lemon, triggering a three-vehicle collision just after midnight.

The minivan broadsided a Mitsubishi Eclipse, killing the driver of the Mitsubishi, 20-year-old Courtney Francis Stewart, and one of her passengers, 25-year-old Henry Nigel Pearson, instantly. Adenhart and 24-year-old Jon Wilhite were transported to UCI Medical Center in critical condition, but Adenhart later died after undergoing surgery. Wilhite, a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

The impact spun both vehicles, and one of the vehicles hit a Honda that was waiting to turn left. That driver was not hurt.

The driver of the minivan, identified as 22-year-old Andrew Gallo from Riverside, fled the scene on foot, leaving his injured passenger behind, but police found him about 30 minutes later walking on Orangethorpe and State College Boulevard.

A 21-year-old passenger in the minivan suffered minor injuries.

Gallo was arrested and will be charged with felony drunken driving, felony hit-and-run and three counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Police said Gallo had a blood-alcohol level that was well above the legal limit at the time of the collision.

According to the DMV, his license was suspended for DUI in December 2005, and in 2006, he was ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt, but not arrested for driving with a suspended license. In January 2007, he was cited for having an open container or marijuana in his vehicle, but not cited for having a suspended license.

The minivan was reportedly speeding, but the exact speed was not determined.

The intersection remained closed for most of the day as police investigate the accident.

Fans came to the scene of the accident to pay their respects to the rookie pitcher.

Adenhart was the starting pitcher in Wednesday night's Angels game against Oakland at Angel Stadium.

It was a great night for the 22-year-old. In just his fourth major league start, he pitched six scoreless innings, although the Angels went on to lose the game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association describes its members as shaken and saddened.

"Just hours before the accident, Nick demonstrated his passion for baseball and his prospects for a very bright future when he pitched six scoreless innings for the Angels," the association said in a statement.

The 22-year-old's father had flown in from Maryland to watch him pitch.

"Last night we had the opportunity to speak with Nick, and he was so elated because of what Scioscia had to say to him about his performance, the fact that he felt like a major leaguer," said Scott Boras, Adenhart's agent.

"The fact of disbelief is just, just prevalent. We all are in shock. Obviously seeing Nick pitching last night and doing so well, and a bright future and such a bright kid, we are going to deeply miss him," Reagins said.

Mariela Alvarez, an Angels fan, brought flowers and Wednesday night's game ticket.

"From one day to the next, I can't believe what can happen in the blink of an eye," she said. "We were supposed to go to the game again today, and it's not going to happen."

Adenhart was born in Maryland, and many fans thought he had a promising career ahead.

According to the team, Adenhart is survived by his parents Jim and Janet Adenhart.

The family issued a statement through the team: "The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick's loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone's hearts forever."

Courtney Stewart and Jon Wilhite were both well-known and loved at Cal State Fullerton. Wilhite used to play baseball for Fullerton and Stewart was a budding jouralist.

"She was such a beautiful girl inside and out. She was always really, really positive ... I mean everyone that knows her is just devastated right now," said Nicole Megowan, Stewart's friend.

Stewart was a cheerleader who was studying communications. Wilhite had also been a communications student while at Cal State Fullerton. He was looking toward a career in media.

"He was a baseball player first and a journalism student second. But he wanted to be involved in some kind of baseball," said Mel Franks, sports information director.

Franks said Wilhite wasn't a star player, he was a backup pitcher or a first baseman pinch hitter. But Franks said he had his glory day during a game his senior year.

"He went four for four. We beat San Diego State. So I always tell people he had his moment in the sun," said Franks.

Eyewitness News Reporters Melissa MacBride, Eileen Frere, Miriam Hernandez, John North and John Hartung contributed to this report.


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