Mother of 5 is honored at Palmdale vigil after being killed by hit-and-run driver in fiery crash

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Friday, June 11, 2021
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A mother of five was honored at a vigil in Palmdale after being identified as one of two people killed in a fiery crash caused by a hit-and-run driver who authorities said was possibly street racing.

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- A mother of five was honored at a vigil in Palmdale on Wednesday night after being identified as one of two people killed in a fiery crash caused by a hit-and-run driver who authorities said was possibly street racing.

Speizale Pope was a passenger in a rideshare car when it was rear-ended at high speed by the driver of a Dodge Challenger, according to her family.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the second victim as 37-year-old Lesther Deleon.

The fiery crash was reported about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday at 12th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's investigators said a Toyota Corolla caught fire after the crash.

"I realized the car was going to explode," said Jonathan Craig, who made an attempt to pull Deleon out of the vehicle as the fire erupted. "At that time I was struggling, the flames were getting stronger."

Despite Craig's efforts, Pope and Deleon were pronounced dead at the scene.

Juan Zamora said he works the overnight shift near the scene and often sees drivers speeding in the area.

"I'm not surprised by this," Zamora said. "I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, and ... unfortunately two people lost their lives today."

Sheriff's Detective Liz Sherman confirmed to reporters that the Challenger was "traveling at a high rate of speed."

"It did rear-end the Corolla, causing the Corolla to lose control," Sherman said. The force of the impact pushed the Toyota into a light pole, after which the car caught fire.

Investigators believe the driver of the Challenger managed to flee the scene in another vehicle. Descriptions of that person and the third vehicle not available.

"We do believe the Challenger was involved in street racing, however the Corolla was not," Sherman emphasized.