Driver pleads not guilty to electrocution deaths in Valley Village


Arman Samsonian, 19, appeared in a Van Nuys courtroom and pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

He is accused of speeding along Magnolia Boulevard when he lost control of his SUV and slammed into a light pole and also hit a fire hydrant. The exposed light pole wires electrified the standing water from the broken hydrant.

Two good Samaritans, 40-year-old Irma Zamora and 39-year-old Stacey Schreiber, stepped into the highly charged water and were electrocuted while trying to help Samsonian.

Samsonian's attorney Andrew Flier said his client is remorseful over what happened.

"Why compound tragedy? Why have this young man go through all of this? And he's facing very serious charges," Flier said. "We're very upset about it."

While Samsonian's case moves forward, some of the Valley Village residents who witnessed the crash say they're having a hard time moving forward with their lives.

"My daughter took off running toward Irma, and I had to scream to stop," said Genette Vergini of Valley Village. "That could have been my daughter, and you relive it."

Christie Vergini of Valley Village said she always thinks about that tragic night.

"I drive by every day, and it's like, wow, I was a part of that, and I witnessed it," she said. "I have tried not to think about it and just block it off, but it's just so hard to."

Samsonian remains free on $100,000 bail. He is due back in court for his preliminary hearing on Dec. 19.

"The holidays are coming up, and hopefully, the right thing will be done," Flier said. "Are we asking for a Christmas gift? No. We're asking that the right thing be done because we truly do not believe he committed this crime."

But prosecutors say since Samsonian was speeding, and then lost control and crashed, and those events led to the deaths of the two good Samaritans. If convicted, Samsonian faces seven years and four months in prison.

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